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New Light

A performance by Christian Knapp and the
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


One of the most rewarding concert experiences is a performance that throws new light on a work you thought you knew well, especially when you're still mulling it over long afterwards. Christian Knapp and the RLPO's performance of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony (Assembly Rooms, Derby UK, 30 January 2007) was just such an occasion.

After the ominous opening fanfare they took a subdued, low-key approach to the lyrical elements in the first movement, almost at the risk of losing forward momentum. It seemed questionable at the time, but with hindsight it appeared part of a strategy to throw the weight of the performance onto the last movement, and the return of the fanfare at the climax. I'm still not sure that it worked, but it was a brave try, and far preferable to thoughtlessly re-ploughing old interpretative furrows. The second movement was perhaps the most successful part of the performance, finding a sense of sheer weariness I've rarely heard before.

To start the evening the orchestra turned in a bright, breezy account of Dvorák's Carnival Overture, and a vivid one of Smetana's Vltava, in which the polka had a real spring in its step, and there was a sensuous glassy sheen to the sound in the moonlight episode.

The orchestra's principal clarinettist Nicholas Cox joined his colleagues in Weber's F minor Concerto. The lyrical music came off best, with the ending of the first movement beautifully done. The second movement was similarly effective, rightly highlighting the magical episode in which the soloist is joined by the orchestral horns. The finale was lively enough but needed rather more devil-may-care flamboyance.

Copyright © 8 February 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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