Sunday Sevens #26

I thought I would gather together all the pictures I’ve taken of my week and join in with another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

Signs of spring: Spring has definitely sprung here in the NW of England. At the beginning of the week we had beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine. On my daily walk to the bus stop for work, I enjoyed the blossom on the trees and snapped at a gorgeous magnolia tree in all its flowery glory.

Walk 1000 miles: I feel I haven’t achieved many miles this week. On Wednesday I had to attend a course on autism which lasted all day! I certainly didn’t get much mileage done that day! My tally for the week has been 21.4 miles. A culmination of 298.6 miles for the three months January to March.

Wildlife: The results of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch were released this week. Follow the link to the results video. #1 was the house sparrow, with the starling a close 2nd.

logoI heard this week about the initiative Wild About Gardens, in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts and the RHS. Their focus this year will be bees and they have put together a wild bee action kit to download. Sophie from Sussex Field Notes has some very informative facts about bees on her blog. I’d recommend a read.

In the garden: I had an impromptu day off on Thursday. So I visited my mum for a coffee. It was nice to catch up and to see my oldest cat Evie looking so well. I took a tour of my mum’s yarden and admired her camellia. Notice my surprise when I perused my yarden at the weekend and notice my camellia had beautiful flowers too. 🙂

Culture: David and I haven’t long got back from a live performance of Mahler’s 5th Symphonyat the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. Sadly I came away from the concert a little underwhelmed. It was not the RLPO’s best execution of Mahler’s 5th. I found the tempo slightly laboured and they seemed to be playing with broken french horns!!

mahler 5

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead!

Christine x

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A Celebration by the RLPO!

I had been excited about attending this concert for some time. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and chief conductor Vasily Petrenko had earlier in the week been wowing the audience at the Royal Albert Hall, London in the biannual Classic FM Live. Friday’s programme borrowed heavily from their earlier London performance, though sadly Petrenko did not return to Liverpool with his glittering sequinned jacket which he wore in celebration of Classic FM’s Make Some Noise charity.

Vasily Petrenko

Vasily Petrenko Picture: Ian West/PA

David and I were in the cheap seats in the upper circle. The auditorium filled up nicely, but was not a full house as Thursday’s performance of the same programme was. I was thankful for this and we enjoyed a unobstructed view of the orchestra!

View from our seats

View from our seats

After the National Anthem, the orchestra started the evening as they meant to go on with a Celebration Overture composed by Nigel Hess and commissioned for the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary! It was a fun opening to the concert though I was more interested in what came next.

Ji Liu who had also graced the stage of the Royal Albert Hall with Petrenko and co on Tuesday, came to Liverpool to perform Rachmaninov’s ultimately romantic second Piano Concerto!

Ju Liu

Ji Liu

It is undoubtedly my favourite piano concerto! I love the lyricism of the piece and the second movement (adagio sostenuto) is spine tingly good. Ji Liu cuts a very slender frame on the stage and at times during the performance the piano seemed too small for him, (if that make’s any sense)! He played the piece deftly and with skill.

During the opening movement (moderato), I found that the orchestra seemed to drown out the piano at times. I have noted this earlier in my review of Nobuyuki Tsujii‘s performance of Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto. Perhaps this was why the orchestra was surrounded by padding that adorned the walls? In part to rectify the change in acoustics due to the earlier renovations? Either way, the performance was exceptional.

While Ji Liu took the audience into the slow, second movement, made famous by David Lean’s Brief Encounter, I prepared myself to be swept away with romantic feeling. However the reality was that any sentimental musings were disrupted by some unfortunate, who coughed and retched about five minutes into this musical reverie. I imagined the poor stricken soul expiring in his chair. I gripped David’s arm hoping the gentleman would recover or graciously leave the auditorium. He thankfully recovered so we could all enjoy the remaining performance which culminated in Ji Liu coming onto the stage three times to raucous approval and then satisfying the appreciative crowd with his rendition of Skyfall.

After the interval, the Philharmonic continued their celebratory mood, with Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila, Vaughan William’s English Folk Song Suite and Verdi’s Aida march and ballet music. The concert was rounded off loudly with the much played 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. I would have loved this performance even more, if it were not for the recorded playback of cannons near the cymbal crashing culmination! To me it seemed a little forced. I was content with the wonderful playing of the percussion section whose bells sounded glorious!

Overall it was a fun concert to see and a great start to the Philharmonic’s new season. I look forward even more to Petrenko’s Mahler in November when the RLPO perform Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, a symphony very close to my heart!

© 2015 Christine Lucas

The ‘New’ Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

On Sunday David and I went to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic to hear a recital of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto, performed by Nobuyuki Tsujii, and conducted by Vasily Petrenko.

The hall has just had a major facelift. It has been some 20 years since the last overhaul and everything looks fresh and newly painted. The reception is of an aquatic blue and the auditorium painted brilliant white, with new lighting and a new stage.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

However it’s quite noticeable, the new against the old. I would have preferred new upholstered chairs, or at least carpets for the audience, the seating areas look a little dated in comparison.

From Thursday’s performance called ‘Winter Daydreams,’ where Nobuyuki Tsuji played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3, people noted that the acoustics in the hall were different than previously. I noticed the same today. The strings, especially the cellos/bases during the Rachmaninov seemed rather muted. Whether this has anything to do with the pale wood that comprises the stage is debatable. However the sound from the Tchaikovsky (1st symphony) seemed to dispel any previous issues.

The concert opened with Nobuyuki Tsuji‘s performance of the 3rd Piano Concerto of Rachmaninov, touted as one of the most technically challenging to play. Tsuji’s performance was virtuosic and touching. The lyricism in this piece is breathtaking, but for me it doesn’t touch the emotion carried by it’s predecessor. Personally I would have loved Tsuji to have performed the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no.2 which he played triumphantly at the BBC Proms in 2013. However I did enjoy the Rachmaninov 3, the finale was exhilarating.

It was lovely to see Petrenko guide Tsuji on and off the stage to the appreciative applause. There was even a hug between them after they left the stage for the final time.

The afternoon was filled with encores as Tsuji came back to the stage to perform Rachmaninov’s Variation 18 of a Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini which was beautiful. I could have listened to a whole concert with Tsuji playing, so I hope he comes back to the UK and Liverpool again soon! The only complaint I had which has also been reiterated by other reviewers was that at times the orchestra seemed to overpower the virtuosity of the soloist. Perhaps it is something the Liverpool Phil can rectify for future concerts?

The second half of the concert was Tchaikovsky’s 1st Symphony, ‘Winter Daydreams.’ It is a symphony I am not familiar with. I know a lot about Tchaikovsky’s most popular works and his later symphonies but not his earlier ones. It was a neat performance by the Liverpool Philharmonic, but for me it was just not my ‘cup of tea,’ even David nodded off at one point!

With the hall still having major reconstructions, the side entrances were closed, meaning that everyone from the circle and rear circle had to filter out via one exit. People stated ‘what would happen in a fire?’ but I am sure the hall’s evacuation plans would cover this. I can’t see them opening for the public with no emergency contingencies in place.

The concert was a ‘sell out’ and the audience seemed happy with what they were offered. I know David and I went home feeling satisfied. I can’t wait to visit the hall again for the Valentine’s concert and in April for Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony (No2). That performance will definitely test out the new acoustics of the hall and we’ll also see where the choir will be situated on the new stage!

They are lots of exciting events to look forward to and the Liverpool Philharmonic looks like it is embarking on an enthralling 175th anniversary season.

Liverpool International Music Festival 2013

Below find more footage I took of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko, opening the International Music Festival in Sefton Park.

I am not a big festival goer nor a big fan of bands but on discovering that the Philharmonic were performing at Sefton Park only 15 minutes drive from me, I knew I just had to go! On the Friday I was so very excited, I was like a child waiting for Father Christmas to visit! The rain stayed off and the music and setting was enthralling! I hope you think so too. 🙂

RLPO playing John Barry’s James Bond Theme.

RLPO playing Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean theme.

RLPO playing Holst’s Mars from the Planets.

Happiness is for Everyone.

Friday was the beginning of the August long weekend and AT LAST I have something more interesting to write about than garden birds! David with car packed full with deck chairs took my Mum, brother Daniel, his friend Paul and myself to Sefton Park to see the opening of the Liverpool International Music Festival.

First on the bill was the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko. It was a must see and being free was not to be sniffed at! So sitting under a cloud laden sky we all eagerly awaited the beginning of the concert. The organisers said there were up to 10,000 people at the opening night and we were five of that 10,000!

The concert was presented by Jamie Crick of Classic FM fame and whom I thought was a little bit ditsy as he tripped over his words and also got the programme wrong on one occasion. The orchestra opened with the theme from James Bond and went on to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Ride of the Valkyries before culminating with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and at the crescendo a flurry of fireworks accompanied the rousing finale. The concert was enjoyed by all and we left the park feeling uplifted and happy.

On Saturday we left early for Manchester’s Trafford Centre where we spent 1.5 hours walking around the shopping mall. We were not shopping but talking pictures of the Elephant Parade, where there were 30 colourful painted elephants gracing the upper and lower levels of the mall. I loved all the varying artistic designs and also managed to purchase my own memento of the occasion though it knocked me back £45!

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I Did Not Cry…

Not a tear fell while I listened to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under the guidance of Vasily Petrenko as they performed for the first time in the Philharmonic’s history the entire 10th Symphony by Gustav Mahler. There were moments when I was overcome with emotion but I managed to hold it together and not embarrass myself or David.

Vasily Petrenko(1)

I was saddened to see that on both performances of Mahler’s 10th, the hall wasn’t full to capacity! I wonder what made the organisers put on two shows rather than one? I wish they had done the same for Mahler’s 8th last year, then I may not have been stuck at the back of the Anglican Cathedral and upsettingly witness someone in the audience keel over! However, as there were no heads in front of me, I had a great view of the orchestra and of Vasily in this special performance.

I listened to the broadcast of the first show on BBC Radio Three on Thursday and I, with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio succumbed to the wonderful orchestration of Mahler’s unfinished symphony, completed by Deryck Cooke. The Philharmonic’s command of the Adagio (1st movement) was simply breath-taking. I believe I had not heard it played with so much depth of emotion before. The sound was so clear even streaming through broadband!

And so for Saturday’s performance. David and I, wrapped up from the chilling wind that brought with it Spring snow the day before, made our way to the Philharmonic Hall. We gingerly watched for ice underfoot as we caught the 86 bus and was transported smoothly for our date with Mahler!

Gustav-Mahler-Kohut_1892

I have been attending the Philharmonic in Liverpool for nearly 20 years now and have listened to Mahler being performed countless times. It was my first on hearing his 10th being played though. With excited butterflies in my tummy, the lights in the auditorium fell and the brilliant (almost too bright) spotlight lit up the orchestra as Vasily walked on stage with baton in hand. There was a collected intake of breath from the audience as the first bars of the Adagio were played. I love watching the sections of an orchestra as they come together and it’s only with Mahler symphonies that the percussion section seem to entertain most of all. David said he liked the soaring strings in the romantic Adagio the best. I noticed how Vasily would raise his hands to the heavens almost as if beseeching Mahler’s spirit to come amongst us as his music drifted into the ether. Norman Lebrecht in his blog post describes a conductor approaching a performance of Mahler’s 10th Symphony as ‘the maestro, for that hour-plus,’ has ‘to be Mahler.’ Therefore perhaps Vasily was indeed channelling the spirit of Mahler? During the two Scherzo’s Vasily seemed to take on the persona of a demented fiend, jerking about like a man possessed. He would raise his fist to the orchestra who in turn would challenge him in their playful audacity. As the drum of fate boomed around the auditorium the conductor seemed to shiver as if in fear. The only comic relief to be had was during the ländler where the orchestra played light-heartedly and Vasily shook his booty on the podium!

Then the soul tormenting Finale came. It’s a piece of music that usually renders me in tears. Thankfully this evening it wasn’t the case, though the screeching strings and then the soft sighing of the woodwind tugged at the heart. Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo in her review said there were some tonality issues, but none that could detract from the poignancy of the music being performed. Vasily seemed to have tightened up the brass section since the first performance and they played with unparalleled confidence. As the final note of Mahler’s 10th faded, Vasily paused while the rawness of the performance was absorbed by the audience. The young conductor fell back upon the rail of his podium as if overcome with emotion and sheer exhaustion of the piece. With baton lowered he invited the audience to show their appreciation, a few rose to their feet. Vasily came onto the podium twice more to accept praise where it was due. He also seemed subdued, placing his hand to his heart in gratitude. The applause was understated, perhaps due to the fact that Mahler’s 10th is a symphony largely forgotten or maybe the powerful emotions performed for over an hour subdued the audience? Either way they milled out of the hall silently, thoughtfully.

I really wish that the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic would release a recording of their rendition of Mahler’s 10th Symphony. I believe it was one of the best, if not the best I have heard it performed! Norman Lebrecht also mentioned in his blog that Vasily would be repeating his version of Mahler’s 10th ‘next year with the Philharmonia in London and the radio orchestra in Berlin,’ something to look forward to then.