Considering recent events in eastern Europe, Domingo Hindoyan briefly spoke from the podium before this Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra matinee and fittingly conducted the national anthem of Ukraine. Rapturous applause from a packed Philharmonic Hall was sentiment to the strength of feeling of solidarity with musicians and the Ukrainian people.

Domingo Hindoyan
© Dead Pixels

Rossini’s overture to Semiramide followed. Light in period style, it made up for it with some rather fine string and woodwind playing. At a pivotal moment, the horns lost their footing with some blemished notes which temporarily took the shine off the playing. In a stroke of genius, Hindoyan had swapped the usual placement of cellos and violas, the later being along the platform edge allowing the interplay between them and the first violins to be fully appreciated. The highly articulate and vibrant woodwind playing brought some humour throughout. Hindoyan kept the reins taut, not allowing the ending to become over exuberant, peaking aptly, but slightly overly controlled in the final pages. 

Hindoyan programmed another French orchestral rarity. A few week’s ago he conducted Roussel’s suite from Bacchus et Ariane, today it was Paul Dukas’ La Peri, a 1912 Ballets Russes commission. On first hearing, it sounds very much like the love child of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Ravel’s La Valse, an enjoyable work, but not one of the most memorable orchestral pieces.

Cast in two sections, Hindoyan cajoled radiant and polished sonorities from the brass in the Fanfare, which contrasted with the more austere string sonorities in the opening of the Poème dansé. The balancing of the orchestra was superb throughout, Hindoyan extremely aware of the refined textures. Depicting the quieter moments with mysticism and magic, the strings of the RLPO played lightly, harps were not overpowered and the percussion was restrained without being modest. Similarly to the Rossini overture, it was paced well, but just a tad reserved.

After a relatively short first half came Rachmaninov’s formidable Second Symphony. Having big boots to fill in this repertoire, left by his predecessor Vasily Petrenko, Hindoyan gave a rather different insight into the work with a clearly personal vision. The Largo which begins the first movement had a serious, darker and pointed ambience. Keeping the string vibrato light, this created a transparency and chill, intensified by strong and precise intonation. In the ensuing Allegro moderato the fine balancing of the orchestra allowed the inner voices to shine through. 

The Scherzo-like Allegro molto second movement had a youthful and vibrant feel coming from the brisk, yet controlled tempo. Crisp articulation of the opening section contrasted beautifully with the more cantabile middle section in which Hindoyan discovered a pacing all of his own. Finding an embracing quality in the Adagio, Hindoyan stripped away any sentimentality from what can be a saccharine movement. Letting Rachmaninov’s beautiful melody speak for itself, it was straightforward and gloriously radiant. Only in the recap of themes from the previous movements in the concluding Allegro vivace, did all the tempo choices and treatment of ideas become apparent, in what proved a very thoughtful, considered performance. 

Taking the tried and tested three part structure the programme was balanced and satisfying. The RLPO players were superb in giving Hindoyan everything he commanded. Whilst the concert felt very well-rehearsed and safe, it just lacked a sparkle of spontaneity which would have tipped the balance making a great concert into a truly memorable one.