It feels like another world here in Liverpool. There’s a buzz about the place. The warm breeze and brolly-clad streets hint at a cosmpolitan feel. This and the art deco interior of Liverpool’s Phiharmonic Hall give distanced concert-going a sophisticated edge.
The Philharmonic Hall staff are organised, effcient, welcoming, and attentive. Ingress is swift and unfussy, middle-aged confusion is quickly addressed with eager eyes and non-aggresive questioning. I feel welcome in a space I’ve never visited before. I feel welcome. And I gasp when I see the interior. That is quite some achievement.
On stage the RLPO are a fresh-faced unpretentious bynch whose low-key low-key outfits bring out the rich colours in the wood and brass. Their presence echoes the joyous interior design. The RLPO have got this licked. Totally.
Their performance of Stravinsky’s Octet celebrates the industrious articulation the composer demands in the score. There’s a beguiling duo between flute and clarinet at the beginning of the second movement momentarily interrupted by the thwack of a mobile escaping from the flautist’s pocket. No matter. This is live. And live feeds on jeopardy. I’m impressed by how full the sound is given there are only 8 players on stage – a reflection of the blissful acoustic.
The Trombone Concerto performed by Peter Moore – tonight’s premiere available live on BBC Radio 3 on 25th June and available stream via the RLPO website from 29th June – is trademark Howard. Her musical language is effortless TV music without the distraction of TV images. Evocative vibes, shimmering suspend cymbals and harmonic slides pepper the work. She creates a tantalising sense of optimism in her music in such a way that listening to it you can’t quite be sure whether you’re getting carried away or not. Music I want to listen to again and again. Some trick. The second movement opens with a impassioned statement from the trombone underpinned by a pianissimo brass line that tricks the ear into thinking there’s an echo in the hall. The concluding movement doesn’t quite hold my attention as much, but I’m not discouraged. Howard’s language here makes her someone whose output I want to explore further. Not sentimental. Not mawkish. Engaging. Invigorating.
Later, Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Full of grace in the first movement – all silk pyjamas and warm summer breezes. A sumptous second movement was the undoubted high point. At first, the third movement lost my attention until three quarters of the way through when especially impressive ensemble between woodwind and strings hooked me back in with beautifully interlocking textures and ravishing closing chords in the strings.
Utterly charming (and actually adorable) conductor Domingo Hindoyan is good with a microphone and even better with Prokofiev’s first symphony, drawing out unexpected colours in the first movement, weighty detached strings in the second, and a gratifying and tightly controlled raucousness in the final movement.
A lovely evening.
Dani Howard’s Trombone Concerto receives its broadcast premiere on BBC Radio on 25th June. The concert is available to stream via the Royal Liverpool Philharmomic Orchestra website from 29th June.
Picture Credit: Ad Lib