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Review: Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto at RLPO ****

October 6, 2019

Given his long and stellar (ongoing) career, it’s something of a surprise to find multi award-winning violinist Sergey Krylov only made his Liverpool debut this week.

Hopefully he’ll be back in Hope Street long before he hangs up his bow.

Formal in tails on a damp autumn Sunday afternoon, Krylov showed he is master of the mellow timbre, producing a warm, rounded and lyrical tone through the sweeping movements of Tchaikovsky’s marvellously melodic violin concerto.

The 49-year-old is the son of a violinist mum and a violin maker father, and I’d love to know if – like Queen’s Brian May – his dad made the instrument he plays.

Cocooned in the Phil’s cosy musical embrace, Krylov let fly with a superb set of speedy runs (which saw his bow trailing loose hairs), followed by a measured series of notes at the dog whistle end of the instrument’s register. If I was being very picky, I’d suggest the first sounded a little under the note. But it was a consummate and impressive display of virtuosity all the same.

There followed by an exquisite canzonetta, its sad, silky melody winding its way through the auditorium, achingly echoed by Cormac Henry's flute.

In fact, the entire programme offered the woodwind section – particularly Henry, clarinettist Pedro Franco-Lopez, principal oboe Jonathan Small and the bassoons – opportunities to take centre stage.

A whip-quick allegro finale, Usain Bolt-fast and fierce, juxtaposed Krylov’s demonstration of storming speed and dexterity with a mellow answering call from the cellos, and a very pretty woodwind-led middle section.

The concerto followed an aperitif of Lyadov and was followed itself after the interval by a brace of big pieces, punchily played.

Under Vasily Petrenko’s baton the Phil conjured a beatific aura through the opening minutes of Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration.

There was pleasing thunder in the music’s stormy fight to the death (literally), with beautifully constructed surges of brass and strings in a tidal wave of sound swirling around Petrenko’s whirling dervish impression on the box.

The programme notes asked – Heaven or Hollywood? And the work certainly has a cinematic surround sound of blockbuster proportions.

Stravinsky’s wartime Symphony in Three Movements completed the programme, its overture angular and angry, a melding of jackboots and jazz scatting, with the Phil generating a good sense of momentum.

The andante had a winding persuasiveness in its otherworldliness, and – befitting the afternoon as a whole – there was a pounding con moto finale to wake even the most committed post-lunch dozer.

Photo: Mary Slepkova

 

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