Review | Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Olga Kern and the RPO in Santa Barbara

Credit: David Bazemore

It was glorious to be back in the Granada for CAMA’s first International Series concert since its 100th anniversary in March 2020. The Royal Philharmonic, conducted by Vasily Petrenko, delivered a thoroughly satisfying program that began with the Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33a of Benjamin Britten. These interludes originally punctuated the main action of the opera. They show the composer at the height of his powers as a colorist and orchestrator. The finale, “Storm,” brought out the full force of the RPO’s brass section.

Olga Kern demonstrated her deep familiarity with the music of Tchaikovsky in a richly nuanced account of his Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23. Kern followed this performance with a splendid encore, Prokofiev’s Etude Op. 2, No. 4. In the second half of the evening, Petrenko and company explored the intricacies of Variations on an Original Theme, “Enigma,” Op. 36 by Edward Elgar. Moving with a dancer’s grace, the maestro’s active left hand teased out the details of this multifarious score. The orchestra treated the appreciative audience to an encore from Tchaikovsky, the Danse des bouffons (Dance of the Clowns) from The Snow Maiden. This concert was a promising debut for the Royal Philharmonic at the outset of their current North American tour.

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