Friday 3 May 2013

Mueller-Schott at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Having moved to Liverpool about two weeks ago, it was time to explore the classical music scene. My first outing took me to the Philharmonic Hall and a performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The timing of my first experience with the Liverpool music scene was particularly fortunate since Daniel Mueller-Schott played Britten's Symphony for Cello and Orchestra in the first part before the interval.

Just lose that shawl - Daniel Mueller-Schott when he is not playing

Schott has made a name for himself with various recordings of modern classical music, amongst other things, many Britten pieces. I liked his recordings of Debussy, Poulenc, and Franck with Robert Kulek in which he showed a remarkable maturity of sound. His play is not just technically brilliant but also full of empathy and those qualities resonated with the audiences at yesterday's concert who demanded an encore. Sadly, the encore he played (nothing less than brilliantly, as you would expect) highlighted what is wrong with the hall itself. Britten's Symphony for Cello is a difficult piece (and probably not his best) in any venue, but the Hall's acoustics made it a mush at times, and difficult for me to even hear the cello amongst the orchestral 'noise' bouncing off the bare walls. Schott's encore, Britten's Declamato, however compensated for the loss of clarity during the Symphony and the playing was crystal clear as it should be.

The second piece was far better suited for the Hall with an orchestra reduced in size playing Shostakovich's Symphony No.14. It is not so much a Symphony but an orchestral version of a long operatic scene for two voices. Their singing resembles a drawn out lament at times, or a more direct exchange at other times. Alexander Vinogradov has probably literally blown away a few people in the audience at times with a bass voice that is unsurpassed in strength. It would be a real feat to hear him in a full length opera. Olga Mykytenko was a good match for his voice, both being greatly appreciated by the audience.

Overall, the performance was beautifully played and exactitude was the conductors strength who seemed to be in full command of the orchestra. The Hall itself just seems more suited to small orchestras or even chamber music due to the fact that it has the acoustics and the architectural charm of a Moscow Metro Station. But then again, I am sure there will be plenty of other venues in Liverpool that are still awaiting discovery.

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