Sunday, 11 October 2015

Start of the pops (Philharmonia/Payare)

Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky (Rafael Payare cond. Philharmonia at the De Montfort Hall)

Rehearsal at the De Montfort Hall. Image: Philharmonia Orchestra

A programme of four short pieces opened the Philharomia’s residency at the De Montfort Hall for the 2015-16 season. It started with Tchaikovsky’s overture Romeo and Juliet, which was somewhat unevenly delivered. Rachmaninov’s fourth piano concerto gave Daniil Trifonov a chance to really shine. The intensity of the space around the keyboard, through which his hands were moving, was astonishing.
After the interval, things picked up considerably. More Rachmaninov first, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was much more even, driven by yet more intense playing from Trifonov. Finally, during Pictures at an Exhibition not only was the skill of the orchestra clear, but it was apparent too what enjoyment was being had by the players. And why not? Moreover, I am not sure I have heard the violins sound as good before; they were certainly on fine form with Maya Iwabuchi as a guest principal.
In short, Rafael Payare seemed to have quite a shallow rapport with the orchestra, and this resulted in an uneven performance. For Paganini, and Exhibition, it seemed more like the orchestra was on auto-pilot, and things were very decent.
Conservative has to be the watchword in programming here. It is quite easy to be sharply critical of this. Could they not, one wonders, throw in something unusual occasionally? Possibly not. They need bums on seats. One lady looking at forthcoming programmes wasn’t coming to one on the grounds that whilst she loved three of the pieces, she didn’t know another. And 22 minutes of Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini was too much. In this light, the rest of the season makes a lot more sense. And there is much good stuff in store.
Overall: worth the admission for the Trifonov's intensity and the sheer joy of the orchestra.
Tchaikovsky, Fantasy Overture, Romeo and Juliet
Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No. 4
Rachmaninov, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition (arr. Ravel)

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