The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s latest concert under its Chief Conductor Domingo Hindoyan included four highly regarded pieces, each lasting around twenty minutes (plus a little extra) and superbly played. There was no very clear connection between the major pieces, but for me no justification was needed for such an enjoyable programme.

Domingo Hindoyan
© Dead Pixels

First we had the Four Sea Interludes, the orchestral excerpts from Britten’s Peter Grimes that have taken on a life of their own outside the opera house and have come to epitomise the cold and dangerous North Sea as well as the tragedy of the opera. Hindoyan brought out the changing moods and colours of Britten’s remarkable score. Even when the sea appeared calm with light glistening on the surface there were disturbing undercurrents. When it was stormy it was terrifying.

Copland’s Clarinet Concerto followed; a reduced orchestra of strings, harp and piano was joined by clarinettist Julian Bliss. Unusually, this concerto comprises two movement linked by a cadenza. The first movement (“slowly and expressively”) must be one of the most peaceful, meditative pieces of music in the repertoire. Soloist and orchestra move along as one with no conflict between them. Bliss and the orchestra melded seamlessly. Out of this grew the cadenza in which Bliss took the spotlight and demonstrated his virtuosity. The second movement (“rather fast”) was quite a contrast, much livelier with hints of Latin American music and jazz. Bliss ensured that the concerto came together as a richly satisfying whole. His playing was expressive and thoughtful throughout and he evidently had a great rapport with the orchestra and conductor. Then, with orchestral pianist Ian Buckle, he gave us by way of an encore an arrangement of Gershwin’s song Soon.

It is hard to believe that Hindoyan has been Chief Conductor for less than a year. He has gained an enthusiastic following in Liverpool and has proved to be a fine conductor of the core orchestral repertoire, notably Brahms. After the interval we had the Variations on a Theme of Haydn in which Brahms is at his most genial while using a complex form. Hindoyan elicited luminous playing from the players of the RLPO, from the stately opening theme via strongly characterised variations to its glorious return at the end.

The final piece on the programme was Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis after Themes by Carl Maria von Weber – a rather cumbersome title for a work that is exuberant and great fun. Before it, however we had some real Weber: his overture to Schiller’s version of the play Turandot by Carlo Gozzi – the same play that would inspire Puccini a century later. It is notable for its use of an almost genuine Chinese tune (it was taken from an influential French history of China via Rousseau’s Dictionnaire de musique) which opens the piece to create a piece of chinoiserie that packs a lot into its four minutes. It is not one of Weber’s major compositions but a very enjoyable one and one that evidently appealed to Hindemith, as he used it in the second movement of his Symphonic Metamorphosis. The other movements are based on Weber’s piano music. Hindemith took these pieces and transformed them into a four-movement work for a large orchestra which gives many orchestral players the chance to shine. It also gave us the opportunity to hear the wonderful sound of some of the RLPO’s collection of church bells (they had been heard briefly earlier in the evening on the Britten). Hindoyan and the orchestra gave us a spirited performance of this colourful showpiece.