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Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Royal Hall, Harrogate

Reviewer: Rosie Revell


The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of the quietly authoritative and impressive conductor Janusz Piotrowicz, visited the sumptuous Royal Hall, and left their audience completely satisfied and wanting much more. Piotrowicz, one of the world’s most lauded conductors, led the Orchestra through the familiar and crowd-pleasing four pieces; Beethoven’s Overture Fidelio, Schubert’s Symphony no 8 Unfinished, Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No 1: Morning, Death of Ase, Anitra’s Dance, In the Hall of the Mountain King and Dvorak’s Symphony no 9 From The New World. As a relative classical music novice it is nice to hear famous pieces as they should be heard with an audience who are truly appreciative.

Beethoven’s Overture Fidelio is taken from his only, exhaustively reworked, opera Fidelio. Overture Fidelio is a taut, short, very powerful piece in its own right, when separated from its opera. It opened dramatically, settling to an extended and mysterious Adagio which may be a reference to the dark dungeon in which the hero, husband, Florestan finds himself imprisoned. The orchestra moved into the second section with ease and the tone lightened considerably suggesting contrasting light and the ending was joyful possibly referencing a future happy ending for the couple.

The second piece Schubert’s Symphony No 8 in B Minor Unfinished was first performed 37 years after his death in 1865. It is widely considered half a masterpiece and is regularly added to orchestral repertoires. The Unfinished is a dark and dangerous work which seemingly reflects Schubert finding out he had contracted syphilis while writing it. Whenever Schubert was in despair he wrote in B minor, the key here.

The orchestra skilfully opened the piece by establishing the dark mood of the piece in the depths of the orchestra before providing such needed relief with a glorious, uplifting piece for the cellos.

Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No1 brought the first half of the performance to a satisfying and occasionally spine-tingling close. Originally written by Schubert to accompany Ibsen’s play of Peer Gynt’s life. The suite is perhaps among the most familiar and popular orchestral pieces. The four pieces when played in concert are ordered according to musical merit and not where they feature in Ibsen’s play. The four were played by the orchestra with a lightness and deftness of touch that was refreshing in such familiar pieces. Morning seems so quintessentially British yet it is amazing to learn that it was written to evoke the African Coast. In the Hall of the Mountain King is an irresistible show stopping, marvellous way to end the first half, banishing all echoes of the irritating Alton Towers advert it features on.

After a short interval the orchestra returned to the stage with Dvorak’s Symphony No 9 in E minor Opus 95 From the New World Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated piece of the evening it brought the evening to a rousing finale. The whole orchestra returned to bring this symphony to life in a wonderful, memorable way. This four piece symphony opens with arguably one of the most recognisable movements in classical music, forever remembered principally in this country as the music from the Hovis advert. It is interesting to remember it was actually meant to represent Americanism and it also had tinges of homesickness for Dvorak’s homeland. The remaining three movements, however, are just as enjoyable, uplifting and memorable.

The orchestra’s performance this evening was rousing, absorbing and truly enjoyable. The exceptional acoustics of the majestic Royal Hall helped to create this truly enjoyable evening of memorable music that ended far too soon.


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