Making an Effort

To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also. – Igor Stravinsky

2nd July, 2015 White Nights Concert – RLPO, Vasily Petrenko, Alexandru Tomescu

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Orchestra: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor: Vasily Petrenko

Violin: Alexandru Tomescu

Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Clear blue summer sky over Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool - with the obligatory coach bringing concertgoers outside.

Clear blue summer sky over Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool – with the obligatory coach bringing concertgoers outside.

Tchaikovsky  –  Excerpts from Swan Lake (Scene, Dance of the Swans, Neopolitan Dance, Mazurka)

Glazunov  –  Violin Concerto

Rachmaninov  –  Symphony No.1

This concert is the first concert that I am attending in the UK this summer. I always look out for the White Nights concert in RLPO’s ‘Summer Pops’ series, and quickly shoot off an email to ask my best friend, Juliet, if she can attend (and arrange tickets!) too. RLPO concerts are also often the first reason Ju and I meet up in the summer! It was also lovely to find that friends, Robin and Nick were seated right behind us, making them very easy to find!

The concert started with excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s well known ballet ‘Swan Lake’ – beautifully played and immediately my mind conjured pictures of ballerinas in white tutus. For the start of ‘Dance of the Swans’, as part of the audience, it was hard to tell if Petrenko was actually conducting. I wondered if he was conducting solely with facial expressions or maybe just his eyebrows! His motions were minimal during this movement to set and keep the quiet delicate tone. I was pleasantly surprised to realise that the ‘Neopolitan Dance’ had a cornet solo which Brendan Ball played. Fantastic! The lively ‘Mazurka’ had a wonderful celebratory sound to finish this first part of the concert.

The Glazunov violin concerto was a fabulous performance with Tomescu as violinist. As in my previous post, I listened out for the 2nd movement inserted into the first. Then there was Tomescu’s mesmerising cadenza. I felt quite entranced by the intensity of his playing, that as the basses entered at the end of the cadenza, they seemed to bring me back to reality – a sure sign for me that there is something special about the performance and artist. Tomescu followed the concerto with an encore by Romanian composer, Enescu.

At the interval, we went out to stretch our legs and I managed to say a quick ‘Hello!’ to Andrew Cornall (RLPO Artistic Consultant) who I had last spoken to at the RLPO concert in Shenzhen,China in November. It seems to me like the artistic planning team do such a great job at booking artists and figuring out the season’s repertoire that I love checking out their website throughout the year just to see what’s on. I finally decided to get an ice cream and as we were just about to dig in, there was the 5 minute call to go back to our seats. Ju saw the panic on my face, but then told me that we were allowed to eat it in the hall. I really wasn’t convinced and expected to be pounced on at any moment, but lo and behold, Ju was right! I’m obviously too used to Hong Kong venues with their ‘no eating’ rules!

Rachmaninov Symphony no. 1 was a pleasure to listen to with its Dies Irae theme. I always seem to be amazed at what I notice when I hear RLPO play. I truly feel like I hear more of the music by being able to notice each instrument’s emphasis throughout the piece. I am guessing that this is attributed to the balance the players and conductor work at achieving. The final movement (Allegro con fuoco) starts with a vibrant brass march before it continues with strings at quite a gallop interspersed with romantic swells. I love how the music builds in pace and intensity and then there’s the hit of the gong that seems to tell the music to just calm down! The ending was at a calmer pace but still with a good amount of force. When Petrenko turned around, he looked quite exhausted – he’d obviously put as much energy into the performance as the orchestra. Rarely do i get to see an orchestral encore, but I have heard that RLPO have been doing so. It was distinctly recognisable as another Rachmaninov piece – I wasn’t sure what it was but as it continued, I was convinced I knew it and managed to work out that it was a dance from ‘Aleko’. As we exited, Robin said the encores would be displayed on the screen outside the concert hall and I found out that I was right  – ‘Men’s dance from Aleko’. I think I made one of the ushers smile as I made my fist pump!

I had a little gift of Japanese snacks for Brendan and Mrs Ball, so we waited in the foyer and Mrs Ball appeared. So we exited and found Brendan outside with his bike and stopped for a little chat and photo before Ju and I briskly walked to catch our train home.

Post concert photo with Brendan Ball and Mrs Ball.

Post concert photo with Brendan Ball and Mrs Ball.

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