With their ongoing recording project, Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra are on sure ground where Shostakovich is concerned and so it proved tonight. The Twelfth Symphony, subtitled 'The Year 1917' and posthumously dedicated to the man of that moment, Lenin, has never been considered one of the composer's greatest works and certainly not one of his more profound. What it offers in abundance though are visceral thrills and the kind of ambivalent musical spectacle that are his stock in trade. Confronted by a performance as confident as this, it's hard not to succumb to the excitement of the moment.  

Teo Gheorghiu © Roshan Adhihetty
Teo Gheorghiu
© Roshan Adhihetty

Under Petrenko, the RLPO has developed such an assured sense of ensemble and interplay that any niggling imperfections seemed only to add to the overall sense of excitment: if there was a slight miscalculation in the brass in an exposed moment during the opening "Revolutionary Petrograd", it barely registered, for conductor and orchestra had built up such a head of steam, from the opening assalt from the double basses, into the stirring first statement of the 'chorale' theme, that it would be churlish to complain. 

The closest this symphony comes to profundity is in the second movement, "Razliv", a depiction of the exiled Lenin contemplating his next move, though even here there was little lingering over detail and no attempt by Petrenko to search for depth that isn't there. The procession of instrumental solos by which the movement tips into the exciting "Aurora" Scherzo was expertly judged and the final movement "The Dawn Of Humanity" concluded the piece in grandstanding fashion with both conductor and orchestra more than equal to the overblown finale.  

Liszt's arrangement of Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy for piano and orchestra rarely gets an outing in the concert hall these days, so it was felicitous to encounter it here. Teo Gheorgiu's account of the solo part might have lacked the strong personality that other intrepreters have brought to it but there was certainly no lack of elegance in his phrasing or in the marvellous cadenza towards the end. The orchestra backed him to the hilt, finding particular empathy in the Adagio, where the virtuoso fireworks are momentarily halted and the mood changes to one of quiet contemplation. A welcome encore of the third of Schubert's D899 Impromptus found Georghiu on more convincing ground.

The concert opened with Torus, a work by Emily Howard receiving its second British performance after a Royal Albert Hall première (by the same forces) at the Proms last summer. A concerto for (large) orchestra, it represents a 'ring' in sound, with solos for the different sections  based around a repeated two-note tutti figure. A continuous twenty minutes in length, it provided the RLPO with excellent opporutnities to show itself off without managing to be wholly convicning or compelling, lacking in the energy and variety found in simliar works by Bartók and Lutosławski. Nevertheless, a fine concert of unfamiliar and contrasting works by a formidable orchestra/conductor team.  

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