Puppet master: Dutoit conjures superb playing from the RPO in Petrushka


Something quite remarkable happens to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra when Charles Dutoit stands before it. A band which can sound – and look – disengaged is suddenly transformed when its Principal Conductor galvanises it. Still remarkably spry – the RPO celebrates its 70th birthday this year, but Dutoit is nearly a decade older – the Swiss conductor maintained superb control in a globetrotting programme that whisked us from Rome's fountains to St Petersburg's Shrovetide Fair via Bohemia's woods and fields, deftly adjusting the orchestral palette to suit each work.

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Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit – Fountains of Rome & Petrushka – Gautier Capuçon plays Dvořák


Charles Dutoit opened this Royal Philharmonic Orchestra concert with the first one-third of Respighi’s Roman Trilogy, the dawn-to-dusk Fountains of Rome (1916). It's music Dutoit knows intimately. The RPO relished Respighi’s superb scoring and Dutoit ensured that the impressionistic outer sections were delicately lit (harps rippling and bells tolling in ‘The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset’); Dutoit wove magic spells. The two middle movements are brazen and majestic, the latter conjuring ‘The Trevi Fountain at Noon’, introduced solemnly by Dutoit but soon becoming its rollicking splendid self, underpinned by the RFH organ.

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Mahler 2, Coote, Tynan, RPO, Petrenko, Royal Albert Hall


An auspicious debut with the Royal Philharmonic for Vasily Petrenko. Just watching him conduct, it is clear that he is a natural communicator, always giving a clear, generous beat and never missing a cue. No surprise, then, that the orchestra was on his wavelength from the start last night in Mahler's Second ("Resurrection") Symphony, reflecting back all his dynamism and focus. That immediacy was balanced by careful planning on Petrenko’s part, with tempo choices finely calibrated for dramatic power and structural coherence.

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Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall – Vasily Petrenko conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, with Ailish Tynan, Alice Coote & Philharmonia Chorus


If you thought that the frequent appearances of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony might debase its currency, here was a performance that refreshed its mystique. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was large but by no means gargantuan, the Philharmonia Chorus a reasonable, non-apocalyptic size of about 120, there were two excellent singers, and a conductor who was prepared to takes risks in the Royal Albert Hall’s acoustic to the music’s great advantage, turning the space into a cosmic battleground for striving, hope, faith and renewal – a non-specific devotional work right up Easter’s street.

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