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Royal Liverpool Philharmonic April 2023 review

The concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic provided a fitting ending to the current Lakeland Sinfonia series of concerts. It may be that the popular programme was a great draw for so many concert goers but, whatever the reason, it was good to see the Westmorland Hall so full on this occasion.

            Although the orchestra must have performed all the works on the programme many times, there was no sense of mere routine in the playing. Influenced no doubt by the energetic and charismatic conductor, Philippe Bach, the players gave carefully nuanced performances throughout the evening; and as so often, it was the rhythmic precision of a professional orchestra that caught the attention.

            The opening of Weber’s operatic overture Der Freischutz, with strings in their lower register, set just the right atmosphere of darkness that prevails throughout  this opera. In contrast, the horns were impressive as they boldly announced the arrival of the hunters, the principal characters in the opera. Philippe Bach drove the work at a good pace, never allowing the speed to sag at any point.

            Violin soloist, Esther Hoppe, gave a very assured performance of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, negotiating the many technically challenging solo cadenzas with seeming ease. Her tone was rich and full in the beautiful slow movement, although occasionally the orchestra overwhelmed her sound. The last movement, a brisk Polonaise, which can sometime sound a plod, was again driven on at a good speed bringing the work to an exciting conclusion.

            The performance of Dvorak’s well-known New World Symphony was full of energy. The full power of a professional orchestra was revealed in the blaze of the brass in the first and last movements; but there were many more intimate moments, especially in the slow movement. The beautiful cor anglais solo of this movement was beautifully played and the strings were impressive, producing remarkable pianissimos passages.           

            It was later revealed that it is 31 years since the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic last appeared in Kendal; given the standard of playing through this concert one hopes that we will not have to wait so long before the orchestra visits Kendal again.

                                                                                                                                         Clive Walkley

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