As Liverpool revels in Eurovision fever, the buzz throughout the city was equally felt in the city’s Philharmonic Hall. Returning were what the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra have branded the “dream team”, chief conductor Domingo Hindoyan and trumpeter Pacho Flores. Opening the concert was a very vivacious reading of Berlioz’s Roman Carnival, setting a high standard of music-making for the evening. Hindoyan shaped the phrases to emphasise the harmony, giving the most colourful chords more weight with just a little tastefully employed rubato.

Domingo Hindoyan and Pacho Flores
© Mark McNulty (2020)

20th-century French composer Henri Tomasi is not universally known, but his 1948 Trumpet Concerto does get the occasional airing. This 15-minute work was branded “unplayable”, but many virtuosos like Flores have made it a real treat for audiences. Bringing two trumpets and a range of mutes to the platform through these three short movements, Flores judiciously brought out their individual personality and character expressively to make contrasting episodes distinctively different. His technical control in the first movement alone demonstrated that Flores is the Paganini of the trumpet — the flutter-tonguing, breath control, tone, timbre and the kaleidoscopic colours were flawless.  The second movement, on just a few instruments initially, brought intimacy and the string playing had a mystical ambiance which was utterly captivating. In the Latinesque finale, Flores modestly held the audience’s attention in a totally commanding performance.

Albares, Flores’ own concerto for flugelhorn followed using a similar orchestration to the Tomasi. Labels such as a “world premiere” can bring fear and trepidation to audiences, but using the tried and tested three-movement model, echoing the Tomasi, the formula didn’t tire and, as Flores’ demonstrated, there is much still to be said for the form. The movements are formed from dances – bambuco, milong and periquera – the orchestral writing brimming with Latin rhythms, jazzy harmonies and echoes of film scores, whilst Flores told the stories of this music on one of three flugelhorns. Each movement was very much a song without words. Flores turned highly decorated melodies into beautiful and communicative songs, the lines of which have a cantabile quality, laden with emotion and echoes of the richness of the human voice. The results of the Liverpool jury were clear, with a standing ovation and twelve points to Flores, not just for his modest but commanding stage presence, but his fantastic concerto. If this had been the end of the concert, one would have left walking on sunshine for sure. 

After the interval came Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony. What shone out here was not just how carefully programmed this was to complement the first half but also the exceptional playing from the RLPO. The orchestra and conductor were so intuitive together. Hindoyan was confident and clear in his gestures and the players knew all his nuances, giving him 110%. Hindoyan realised how this much more musically dense music needed careful handling and executed it with insight. The three movements had much distinction, but within them the musical episodes unfolded organically: the first movement contained beautiful moments, especially the cello melody; the second had a Ravel like delicacy with superb balance; the third just brimmed with pure joy.