Young Italian made the old Emperor feel fresh

Royal Philharmonic
Preston Guild Hall

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 21st January 2014, 9:33 am

Beethoven’s demanding Piano Concerto No. 5 met its young match on Friday evening.

Federico Colli, the 2012 Leeds International Piano Competition winner, held the audience spellbound as he set about Beethoven’s complex final concerto – The Emperor – for the instrument.

The programme had opened with Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko leading the RLPO through a more modern work, Hindemith’s 1930 Concert music for Strings and Brass Op.50.

Rising in harsh dissonance, brass rumbling ominously, Petrenko’s expressive physicality proved a fitting focal point for this energetic music.

At times unsettling, often harsh, across two movements we slowly come to harmony; a challenging, bracing prelude to the arrival of Colli, right.

Speaking after the young Italian’s Leeds win, one judge declared: “He completely reinvented The Emperor. It was fresh. He is a superb pianist.”

A billing more than matched Friday, and an appreciative Preston crowd communicated this fact loud and long. But for an impromptu and charmingly loose Sugar Plum Fairy it is quite likely they’d never have let Colli out the auditorium. The programmed concluded with Brahms Symphony No. 3.

The shortest of the German composer’s symphonies, it is widely regarded as his best, being at one time dubbed his ‘Eroica’ a nod to Ludwig Van’s earlier masterpiece.

Romantic, lyrical, leading to a finale which brought the night to a quiet, hypnotic conclusion.

The RLPO return to the Guild Hall on Sunday March 9.

The RLPO – with the Hallé, and Manchester Camerata – is part of Lancashire Classical Music Collaboration, a partnership of three orchestras and three venues – the Guild Hall, Blackburn’s King George’s Hall and The Muni in Colne.

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Barry Freeman