It was a night of two enthralling second movements when the London Philharmonic Orchestra opened its season at the Dome Brighton on Saturday night in immaculate style, writes Phil Dennett.
Rachmaninoff offered his sumptuous movement from his Piano Concerto Number 2, while Tchaikovsky conjured up a more complex but still melodic movement from his Symphony Number 5.
In the hands of elegant conductor Alondra de la Parra the orchestra captured perfectly the different tone of each piece.
Return to Sussex
It was a return to Sussex for de la Parra who as a teenager studied at Mayfield School in East Sussex, although she was born in New York and lives in Mexico City.
Her old school’s motto seemed perfect for conducting: “Actions not words”, although her style had a balletic grace and was not showy. She concentrated more on calmly bringing audience and orchestra together and showing trust in the musicians.
Solo pianist Benjamin Grosvenor milked the magic of Rachmaninoff’s most romantic moments while avoiding reducing this well-worn melody to melodrama.
Some floating flute and clarinet set the stage for Grosvenor to stamp his own personality on the wonderful piece from the first note.
Despite its reputation for sweetness, this movement has some fire at its heart and Grosvenor glided effortlessly from a gentle caress of the keys to confident attack.
In the concerto’s other superb and often powerful movements Grosvenor had more opportunity to show his dexterity and sense of the composer’s spirit and passion.
Above all he brought a freshness to the well-worn piece, giving due respect to the work while giving it his own personality.
The meaty third movement gave him scope for playing with soul and accuracy at speed and he showed panache without overpowering a beautifully balanced orchestra.
The technical challenges of the Tchaikovsky Symphony gave full reign to the talents of this fine orchestra and a sublime horn solo, adorned by dusky clarinet and bassoon, paved the way for the embracing slowest movement, with rumbling cello and basses hinting at darker moments.
The strings immaculately teased out the sweet melody while also bringing tautness and tension throughout the whole symphony.
This was a passionate and stirring performance of a very personal and sometimes sombre work.
De la Parra was at her most elegantly animated in the bustling and triumphant sections of the fourth movement in a memorable performance that brought waves of applause from an appreciative audience.
The Glinka Overture from Ruslan and Ludmilla proved an exciting and engaging appetiser as the opening piece of a concert that promised much and delivered more.