Classical review: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

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STEWART Copeland, former drummer with The Police, understands the power and sound potential of an orchestra.

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic - Perth Concert Hall

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That was clear from his new percussion concerto for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Poltroons in Paradise, a musical representation of a triumphant army entering the palace of the regime it has overthrown, only to be dazzled by the extravagance of their spoils.

Vasily Petrenko conducted the concerto’s second performance last Sunday at the Perth Festival, following the success of its Liverpool premiere two days previously.

The punchy brass and warm-textured string writing, and the deftly-handled welter of percussion, played by four percussionists in their omnipresent role as back-row soloists, are all defining aspects of a work that undoubtedly has impact, due mainly to its rock-flavoured muscularity and unrelenting energy.

Copeland describes his soloists as the ”rhythm section”, and sure enough, they never get a second’s break. It’s all virtuoso stuff, including an ecstatic cadenza of multiple triangles, whose combined jangling sets up a climactic springboard to the final push home.

What lets it down is a lack of development. It sticks far too long around one key, and there’s an awful lot of stopping and starting – brief phrases that burst into life, immediately killed by frequent emergency stops. Copeland knows how to grab attention, but struggles with the bigger picture.

Elsewhere in this concert, Elgar’s In the South, with its glorious sweep of Mediterranean heat, and Prokofiev’s grotesquely hard-hitting Symphony No 6, were object lessons in how to achieve that.

Seen on 25.05.14

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