Review: Orchestra of Opera North

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Town Hall, Leeds

Those fortunate to have the Russian disc of Peter Donohoe’s ‘live’ award winning performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto in Moscow’s 1982 International Tchaikovsky Competition will have a rare treasure.

It would be almost impossible to recreate that sensational evening, but he came precious close in this exciting and technically brilliant account that took the outer movements – including the ‘big’ original first movement cadenza – to white-heat.

He was equally persuasive in the more quiet and relaxed poetic passages, introducing just a whiff of wistfulness in the central movement to offset the skittering variation before its close. If we have rarely heard such a vociferous and prolonged ovation in the Town Hall, the Orchestra of Opera North was to come close with Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony under their inspirational Dutch conductor, Jac van Steen.

With that intensity usually reserved for Russian orchestras, the strings went far beyond the call of duty in producing the climatic moments that could be crowned by brass and percussion, Steen heading straight into the finale before the audience had time to applaud the thrill of the scherzo.

It was an unforgettable evening.