Review: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Leeds Town Hall, Saturday, February 9, 2019

YOUTH was very much at the helm of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for this attractive programme of contrasting sonorities. Rising young British conductor Duncan Ward might still be in his mid-twenties, but the strength of his chemistry with the RPO already seems indicative of a long and fruitful relationship. Schumann’s Overture to his opera Genoveva emerged in sumptuous technicolor built on restless, impassioned strings with ravishing woodwind and brass. The burnished warmth of the French horns in Schumann’s thrilling hunting horn-calls deserve special mention.

Russian-born Austrian violinist Yury Revich, also in his twenties, brought an engaging freshness to Mendelsohn’s evergreen Violin Concerto in E minor. The characterful phrasing and sweetness of tone coaxed from his 1709 Stradivarius were the hallmarks of a mesmerising performance that delighted a full house. For his encore, Revich dazzled the audience with some violin pyrotechnics by Fritz Kreisler.

The brooding quality of Dvorak’s Symphony No 7 in D minor is comparable to Elgar’s Second Symphony or Brahms’ Third. Unlike those works, Dvorak’s ends in a blazing, ultimately triumphal coda. Duncan Ward and the Royal Philharmonic created a rich palette of dark hued sonorities in the opening movement. There was a voile-like transparency to the beautiful Poco Adagio and a muscular rhythmic vigour to the exuberant Scherzo. Ward’s layering of the finale built up to a blistering climax with a cavalcade of incandescent brass fanfares.

Geoffrey Mogridge