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Esther Yoo In Hull With The RPO
Andrew Liddle, Features Writer
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s got their new 2018-2019 touring season off to the brightest of starts in the beautiful surroundings of Hull’s City Hall with a concert of romantic lyricism, the centrepiece of which was Max Bruch’s ever-popular Violin Concerto, with young virtuoso, Esther Yoo, as soloist.

The RPO’s international reputation for excellence has continued to grow from decade to decade since its establishment in 1946 by Sir Thomas Beecham. André Previn arrived in 1985 to galvanise the orchestra and enhance its popularity with the general public. Currently it gives about fifty concerts a year away from its permanent home, Cadogan Hall, in Chelsea. Over the years, it has toured the world many times over and shared the platform with the brightest stars in the firmament of classical music.

Their current Artist in Residence is Esther Yoo, the American violinist of Korean descent. Still only 24, she began winning hearts and accolades eight years ago when making her concert debut. She has been in demand ever since and has worked with some of the world’s leading orchestras. Tonight she gave a peerless, flawless rendition of Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G Minor.

It is a masterly work that this critic can never hear without remembering dear old Alan Keith who played excerpts from the slow second movement so often on his long-running radio programme Your Hundred Best Tunes.

Esther Yoo
Miss Yoo stood on the stage radiating a quiet sense of awestruck humility at the beauty of the music she was playing. We would have forgiven her if it was the bravura of her own genius that was moving her, as she captured all the piece’s hauntingly melodious serenity, expressed in the most elegiac cadences exquisitely counterpointed by the sixty-strong RPO under the baton of Barry Wordsworth.

If the audience was deeply moved by the first two slow movements, the excitement of the finale was palpable. After the quiet orchestral introduction the accelerando began dramatically and energetically, only to be halted with sudden surprising double-stops, at which point Miss Yoo tossed her head in a sort of gesture expressive of a dancer’s joy and flourished her bow upwards. Her fingers were a mesmeric blur through most of the movement, soaring onwards and upwards towards the final thrilling ascending accelerando. The applause was thunderous and she was called back many times before as encore extemporising on a Korean folk song.

Wordsworth, perhaps best remembered as Music Director of the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, has conducted many of the world’s leading orchestras. He is a tall, imposing, passionate presence on the podium, with dramatic thrusts exhorting, encouraging, exhibiting, his body constantly turning from flutes to strings, as he seeks to balance dynamics, clarify texture and attend to the discretion of detail. He is on full throttle in search of the biggest crescendi, massages the pianissimo, is ever in the throes of creation, mock conniption here, exultation there, living every second.

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Under his tutelage, the concert had begun with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3. The great composer’s single opera seems to have received a new overture each time it was revived during his lifetime. The third is generally considered the most joyful of the four overtures and is the one most often heard standing alone in symphonic terms. Tonight, it positively glowed with all the vibrancy and sinew we associate with him at his most heroic.

Brahms’s lyrical, pastoral Symphony No. 2 in D Major completed the concert in fine style. If Brahms has a distinctive ‘sound’, it must surely come from his particular orchestration of violas, cellos and horns in combination. There was an intensity and freshness about the RPO in these areas. The second movement, the adagio, was deeply moving. Under Wordsworth’s baton, the piece admirably fulfils Brahms’s own oft-quoted description of it as ‘light and carefree’. Yet in the forte passages, we remember the composer’s sterner and weightier moods.

A night to remember, then for the people of Hull who had filled their marvellously gilded concert hall to capacity.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, with soloist Esther Yoo, was at Hull City Hall on Thursday, 27th September.

Esther Yoo In Hull With The RPO, 28th September 2018, 15:19 PM