Domingo Hindoyan’s golden start to his music directorship in Liverpool continued with another astutely chosen programme of late Romantic fare, here pitching Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy against Anton Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, the so-called “Romantic”.

Domingo Hindoyan
© Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Canadian violinist Timothy Chooi, making his Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra debut, proved an impassioned soloist for the Scottish Fantasy. In his purple velvet jacket and bright red socks, he cut an animated figure at the front of the stage, lunging this way and that with the music. The fireworks of the quick movements flew from his strings with irascible zest, matched by a dry, punchy sound from the orchestra behind him, playing absolutely at the tip of Hindoyan’s baton. With a slimline string section shorn of a couple of desks of players in each section and the harp placed centrally between second violins and cellos, the immediacy of the sound was thrilling to behold.

The orchestral strings matched Chooi’s energetic vigour as well as his delicate control, the former most memorably in the lively rhythmic figures which bounced off the string with woody bite at the opening of the second movement. Elsewhere the rich, warm texture of both soloist and orchestra and Hindoyan’s flexible tempi gave a glowing sentimentality to the slow movements.

In the context of the Bruch, Hindoyan’s approach to Bruckner felt remarkably similar in outlook. Rarely has this symphony felt so poetic, so suffused with fresh air or so free in spirit. Not for Hindoyan the austere ‘cathedrals of sound’ clichés associated with the composer, but rather his reading focussed on allowing the lyricism of the music to sing, the most effective moments very often the softest. There wasn’t even any of the customary long pause and ‘deep breath’ on the rostrum before scaling such a symphonic titan, instead launching directly into the music without hesitation. The opening horn solo was warm and gentle rather than strident, the horn line intertwining elegantly around the rest of the orchestra. With astringent woodwind bird calls and an always forward-looking sense of direction, the movement panned out with a compelling dramatic arc.

The soft footsteps of the second movement were so spacious and serene that the sense of freshness momentarily dulled, almost becalmed, before sparking into life again in the Scherzo. Here the boisterous horn calls and woodwind interludes ripped along at a heady pace, though never at the expense of accuracy. With Hindoyan again adopting the middle-European setup of horns and violas to his right, the rich inner string lines sang out with unbridled prominence in the slow ascent to the climax of the finale. Here, at last, the throttle was opened up in the traditional sense of Bruckner, with blazing brass and roaring timpani. One can only hope that these forces work their way through the rest of the Bruckner symphonies before too long.