Fringe Box



Review: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Barry Wordsworth – G Live

Published on: 27 Mar, 2013
Updated on: 27 Mar, 2013
Conductor Barry Wordsworth - Photo Boyd Gilmour

Conductor Barry Wordsworth – Photo Boyd Gilmour©

by The Stage Dragon

The concert at G Live given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was undeniably a popular event since the hall was at near-capacity; the marketing team seem to be doing a good job.

Beginning with Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, conductor Barry Wordsworth drew some effective long phrases from his players, shaped with purpose and direction, especially the wonderfully dark and mysterious cello and bass opening.

Woodwind intonation took a while to settle, and some legato playing gave a lugubrious feel to this German music. The concert start was also accompanied by electronic noise, and for a moment I wondered if the G Live gremlin of the electrics had struck again. But no, it soon settled down and the general acoustic was fine, if a little quiet and reserved. The extended interruption for latecomers was unfortunate; apparently some members of the audience had problems with parking.

Alexandra Dariescu was the soloist in Beethoven’s uplifting Piano Concerto No.4.  It’s a deservedly popular piece and this was a competent performance.  There were some magical pianissimo moments, and I did enjoy her lightness of touch in the last movement.

RPO Portrait Jan 2010 (C) Robert Taylor cropped 470

A section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Photo Robert Taylor©

Then came the Enigma Variations: a confident opening, an outstanding contribution from the second violins and some nice bassoon playing, but somehow even the sudden loud variation lacked punch and the notes stayed firmly on the page.

One highlight was the beautiful viola solo, and it was well matched by the principal cello – those few mournful notes had such impact!  In fact, the cellos and basses were excellent throughout, as were most of the strings. Sadly the first violins did not meld properly and thus lost something.

Later on, the stammering Dorabella interpretation seemed quite unsubtle, but fortunately the violas saved the variation with some shapely phrasing. Timpani playing was excellent, forceful and tidy, but the percussion section displayed a lackadaisical attitude: with open flight cases and a label-encrusted drum cover nonchalantly leaning against the side wall, they sat ensconced throughout, their soggy contribution lacking in both colour and spice.

There were some beefy bits from bass trombone and tuba, but overall I found this performance rather perfunctory and bland. The ensemble was not always as good as one might expect of a top London orchestra. Perhaps this could be explained by the substitution of players, many of whom were changes from the RPO list. This made me think that the audience was being short-changed, but they seemed to enjoy the event, so maybe the RPO got away with it, again.

Mr Wordsworth spoke briefly, highlighting his connection with Guildford, noting the good attendance, and commenting that live music in Guildford is thriving. Perhaps he was unaware that the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra was to give its final concert the very next evening, after 67 years of providing top-class professional orchestral music in the town.

What do you think?  If you attended this concert, what was your opinion?  Did you spot the dozen players from the Guildford Philharmonic on the RPO platform?  Do you know how G Live, HQ Theatres and IMG fund the International Orchestral Concert Series? Please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below to have your say.

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