Tuesday, April 23

Domingo Hindoyan’s Bruckner – Liverpool Philharmonic

This week, Liverpool’s famous youthful talent took to a prestigious stage and celebrated great success with a charismatic grey-haired leader.  No, not Carabao Cup-winning Liverpool FC with their academy starlets under Jurgen Klopp, but the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra under former percussionist and ‘the scouser in our team’ Sir Simon Rattle.

But on Thursday night it was the seasoned pros of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra who celebrated the music of two composers who showed that talent can materialise at either end of the age spectrum.  On the one hand, the Violin Concerto by prodigious child prodigy-turned-Hollywood-star-composer Erich Korngold, and on the other the monumental Seventh Symphony by Anton Bruckner, who was in his late 50s by the time he began to be recognised for his symphonic output.

In the midst of a successful conventionally classical composing career, Korngold escaped the coming horrors of 1930s Eastern Europe to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood.  Here he arranged and composed film music including the almost operatic ‘The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex’ (1939), starring Errol Flynn.  But he returned to concert compositions with his Violin Concerto (1945), a piece with definite cinematic undertones which Swedish-Norwegian wunderkind and Liverpool Philharmonic Young Artist in Residence Johan Dalene brought to life with his soaring solo line and dazzling rapid passagework.  Referencing various of his film scores in the solo melodies, Korngold utilises a colourful percussion section including glockenspiel, xylophone, and the unusual vibraphone, an instrument more often found in jazz music with a distinct tremolo or vibrato effect.

If the concerto was a tasty and tuneful starter, Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony (1881-3) was a main course of depth and complexity.  Spending much of his early life as an organist and schoolteacher, Bruckner was largely self-taught as a composer, and only really started composing seriously at the age of 37.

The first movement opens immediately with tremolo strings and a cello melody which came to Bruckner in a dream, a glorious theme which returns throughout the first movement in various guises.  And lyric string melodies are a recurring feature of this symphony, played with great passion by the massed strings of the RLPO.  Conductor Domingo Hindoyan, himself a violinist, looked keen to join them as his left hand showed the rich vibrato he wanted from his players.

Bookended by a lyric first movement and the striking horn themes and rich climatic excitement of the finale, the symphony continually ebbed and flowed, but for me it was the inner movements which were the highlights.  The Adagio, with its quartet of Wagner tubas in an elegiac tribute to one of Bruckner’s compositional heroes, had moments of breathtaking beauty, whilst the Scherzo has a striking trumpet motif which develops into repeated, pulsating, and thrilling brass fanfares.  All performed with passion and intensity by the RLPO brass section.

In today’s marketing-driven world, it’s perhaps inevitable that each Philharmonic concert must have a title with which to draw the audience.  ‘Domingo Hindoyan’s Bruckner’ was what we were promised, and for an hour we were transported into Hindoyan’s dreamworld of beauty and of passion, of lyricism and of blazing fanfares.  An all-too-rare example of the reality living up to the hype. 

Reviewer: Mark Humphreys

Reviewed: 29th February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.