Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, St David’s Hall

March 14, 2020 by


It always feels like a well to do affair whenever the Royal Philharmonic roll into town. We’ve had the odd visit from them over the past few years and it never feels enough. It was great to see an actual live event that was not cancelled due to  infection spreading.

Conductor Thierry Fischer is a familiar face in Cardiff music circles. Having bean head of BBC NOW from 2006-12, he blessed us with a stellar introduction to the music of Messiaen, Florent Schmitt and fellow Swiss, Honegger. Now Music Director of Utah Symphony and involved with other orchestras, he made a welcome return to Cardiff in a conventional, yet satisfying night. You only need to hear the first few opening bars of Borodin’s Overture to Prince Igor, to realise it ecstatic and exotic brilliance. Whilst the Polovtsian Dances from the opera might make a usual concert opener, the Overture also proves it worth, with its few minutes of drama, all of the orchestra declaring and demonstrating these heights.

It is a delight to see Tasmin Little play violin. Though I was under the impression we would be hearing the Violin Concerto by Dvořák, we instead were treated to the fourth concerto of Mozart. Little is forever brimming with the joy of music, an accessible effervescence which is on display whenever she plays. Mozart is her friend, playing with a beauty unbounded, a marvel in its own right. The concerto is bubbly, familiar in Mozart’s charming and piffy nature. Smiles all round for another stunning performance, Little last seen by me doing the Szymanowski concerto, another sensational offering that stayed with you. Sadly no encore, but this was enough to savour. We are also very sad to hear of her retirement. Truly a great lose to the music profession.

Brahms ended the night in his First Symphony. I’ve had reservations about this weird, German composer over the years, though his small selection of symphonies have tremendous appeal and usually make for super concerts. Taking over twenty years to write, there was no rush for this to be created, being dubbed “Beethoven’s Tenth” after it’s completion. There are similarities to Beethoven, though Brahms distinct style is being formulated here, leading to a canon of not so large proportions. It’s a little too long (a good 45 mins), though it does have oomph you don’t find in a lot of material from the period. The opening is stuffed with a piercing urgency, leading to many cinematic visions throughout. Yet, it is the Alpine brass call which floats within the final movement, that really hammers home the composer’s cleverness. It stays with you. Fischer appears to have gotten more excitable with his time spent in the States, even a coughing fit in the finale didn’t phase him.

Next concert in St David’s Hall in their International Concert Series is the Philharmonia featuring conductor Pablo Heras-Casado and pianist Daniel Kharitonov playing Rimsky-Korsakov, Liszt, Prokofiev & Stravinsky on 3rd April 2020.

Photo Credit: Classic FM


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