Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Live Review – Hull City Hall
By Karl Hornsey, February 2019
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra made a welcome return to Hull City Hall last week, with a concert featuring works by Schumann, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky. This brief tour only took in stops in Hull, Leeds and Kingston, and the audience were treated to an outstanding performance by violinist Yury Revich. But more on him in a short while.
The opening piece was the Overture to Schumann’s only opera – Genoveva – which was an interesting choice to say the least, given that its lack of critical praise and admiration at the time, in the mid-19th century, contributed to the composer’s refusal to ever countenance writing another opera. Even since, it has hardly taken the world by storm either, which seems a crying shame given how beautifully it came across when played by the RPO. It’s not exactly a jolly tale, as the Genoveva of the title, married to Knight Siegfried, has been accused of infidelity and banished to the forest, which certainly explains the sombre opening to the overture. However, the tempo and passion from the violins soon lifts and, with the introduction of the horns, starts to signify the forthcoming happy ending, as Siegfried realises he has been duped, and forgives Genoveva, with the flutes, oboes and trombones heralding a wonderful and frantic finale.
The second piece brings to the stage Yury Revich, the Russian-born, Austrian violinist, for Mendelssohn’s ‘Violin Concerto in E minor, Op 64’. Revich has won all manner of awards in his relatively short career and showed why; owning the stage and giving a virtuoso performance on a 1709 Stradivarius in a concerto that involves the violin almost from the off. Unlike the opening piece, Mendelssohn’s work has garnered huge critical claim to this day, and is regarded as one that all budding concert violinists need to master. And master it Revich certainly does. His bravura playing of the violin even distracted one away from his particularly impressive and sparkling pair of shoes, which from where I was sitting that took some doing. While the piece seems at first to have many of the hallmarks of a traditional concerto, Mendelssohn produced a work of deep complexity and originality, and one that involves the soloist for the vast majority of it. Revich excels in the piece, leaving conductor Duncan Ward (top image) with his work cut out to keep the pace so intense until the wonderful climax.
The orchestra returned to the stage following the interval for their third and final piece, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Symphony No 5 in E minor’. The composer’s Fifth has been somewhat lost in comparison to those immediately before and after it, and Tchaikovsky himself said of it, “I have come to the conclusion that it is a failure”. Then again he never exactly seemed overly happy with many of his works. Fortunately, once again, he was being overly critical of himself because, far from being a failure, it involves moments of genuine emotion and grace, even if it may not be one of the composer’s most lasting and memorable achievements. The initial funereal tone gradually dissolves and a powerful love scene plays out, followed by a waltz, and finally the triumphant full-on involvement orchestra to bring a wonderful evening’s entertainment to a close.
And the even better news is that the orchestra are back in Hull in April for a performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’.
Top image: Peter Hoare