Review: Tchaikovsky's brilliance and beauty shine through in Northampton concert

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Anna Brosnan reviews the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's The Beauty of Tchaikovsky concert at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton

It is perhaps unfortunate that Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture became such a global success as a theme of love.

Hear the famous melody now, and it almost seems a little comedic and over the top as a musical expression of love, simply because it has been so well played, used, reused and wrung out in modern culture.

I say this is unfortunate because, listen to the music simply played by an orchestra, without any context of what it is trying to say, and it is easy to see the mastery which went into its composition, and the unmistakable beauty of its structure.

The theme was among a small selection of the Russian composer's works played as part of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's The Beauty of Tchaikovsky concert at Northampton's Royal and Derngate on Sunday and I was only too happy to sit back and spend some time revelling at the enduring skill of a composer whose music can still leave 21st century audiences wondering at his talent.

Under the commanding baton of Gianluca Marciano, the RPO took its audience on a tour of some favourite works by Tchaikovsy, namely Eugene Onegin: Polonaise and Letter Scene, Symphony No. 5 and the Romeo and Juliet Overture mentioned above.

Eugene Onegin is based on a narrative poem about Tatiana, who falls in love with Onegin, only to be let down by the object of her affections.

Dressed in a shimmering blue gown, soprano Gemma Summerfield took to the stage to help tell Tatiana's story. Gemma has a great stage presence and she held the audience enthralled as she delivered an emotional and expressive performance. Her voice demonstrated great purity in the highest ranges, and her musical talent was warmly received by a packed crowd at Royal & Derngate.

Playing by the RPO was exquisite in deftly delivering the power and diverse feelings and ideas depicted in Tchaikovsky's works. One of my favourite moments was the theme in the symphony's second movement when the French horn delivers an exposed and beautiful melody, a change from the strident, driving strings and brass seen elsewhere in the piece.

The evening was a brilliant showcase of music by a long-gone but never forgotten and much-loved composer.