Hooray! The All New Liverpool Philharmonic Hall!

Well, this is a very exciting day! Having been closed for six months, Liverpool Philharmonic is reopening this evening at 5.30pm to the public for our 7.30pm concert. Stage one of the £14million redevelopment is complete and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra is back home where it belongs in our 175th anniversary year!


The programme, conducted by Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko will be:

Debussy – Iberia

Hollywood Legend James Horner – Pas Des Deux (world premiere)


Mari Samuelsen violin
Håkon Samuelsen

Tchaikovsky – Symphony no. 5


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British Orchestras Making Everyday Life Special…

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James Horner And The RLPO…

JS50247776Hollywood composer James Horner whose Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra will be premiered in Liverpool Credit: Sylvia Wells

By Catherine Jones – Liverpool ECHO

He’s worked on some of the biggest movies to come out of Hollywood in the last three decades – from Deep Impact and The Mask of Zorro to Avatar and a little film called Titanic.

So it’s a bit of a surprise when composer James Horner admits: “I’ve always wanted to write a ballet.”

And, while he may not have yet fulfilled that specific ambition, he’s come closer to it than ever before with his latest commission, a rare classical composition being premiered in Liverpool this week.

Pas de Deux – the clue is in the title – will be performed by brother and sister Hakon and Mari Samuelsen, appearing with the RLPO and Vasily Petrenko.

“It was written really as two soloists or two dancers, with orchestral accompaniment,” the 61-year-old explains. “I’m thinking sort of visually. It really is a very intimate piece with orchestra.”

It was the Samuelsens, who proved a hit with Liverpool audiences when they performed at last year’s Spirit of Christmas concerts, who went to James with the idea for a new piece.

It’s many years since he wrote anything purely classical – a work called Spectral Shimmers in the 1980s.

“Having come up the academia and classical music (route), when I moved away, I got to a point where I didn’t want to deal with the classical world any longer,” he admits. “I just wanted to be in film.

“So this is the first thing I’ve written after vowing never to return to the classical world.”

It won’t be the last, however, as he’s been asked to create a concerto for four horns for the London Symphony Orchestra.

The American trained at the Royal College of Music before moving LA in the 1970s where he gained a PhD in composition and theory. His film breakthrough came in 1982 when he was asked to write the music for Star Trek II.

Since then, he’s scored something like 100 soundtracks, everything from Aliens and Apollo 13 to Iris, A Beautiful Mind and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. He’s the owner of two Oscars (for My Heart Will Go On) and has been nominated another eight times.

Still, it appears it was the right time to turn his composing hand to something different.

He muses: “I think time has gone by and I’ve realised the pros and cons of the film world. I’ve sort of been there and done that.

“Mari and Hakon asked me about writing a piece for them, and I thought it would be a big challenge. Especially as nothing’s been specifically written for that ensemble (violin, cello and orchestra) since Brahms.” Despite working in the hi-tech world of films, James composes not on a computer, or even at a piano, but on a big architect’s table, and in the past has likened composing to painting.

“If I want a certain colour or certain timbre – I think very much in terms of how I’d paint that,” he says.

So what colours does Pas de Deux put him in mind of?

“There’s no specific colour,” he answers. “But it goes through a lot of different textures. It’s a piece that basically goes to all 12 keys. But it won’t necessarily sound like that.

“It does a lot of modulating. I don’t think it’s a particularly hard piece, but the whole blend, the balancing, is going to be key to make it come alive.”

He’s been sitting in on rehearsals, and will be at the Phil to hear the concerto performed in the opening concert of the RLPO’s 175th anniversary season.

“And, in grand tradition, the hall’s not quite finished,” James laughs.

“The paint will be drying as the piece is performed. I love it!”

Pas de Deux is premiered at the RLPO’s Season Opening concert on Thursday.

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Jonathan Aasgaard…

I was in the Royal Hospital here in Liverpool today. I was actually there to receive some treatment for a frozen shoulder, a complaint I have been suffering with for a while.

I was awaiting my appointment in the muskoskeletal reception room when I looked at the adjacent wall to the one I was sitting at. Imagine my surprise to see a lovely watercolour of RLPO Principal Jonathan Aasgaard in the waiting area.


I sent Jonathan a photo immediately. It was the first time he had seen it. Jonathan played solo cello at my wedding recently…

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Lest We Forget…

Good luck tomorrow to all trumpeters, cornetists and buglers playing at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.lastpost


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Musical Humour…


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Liverpool Philharmonic Hall is still closed for another week so the RLPO are giving a performance in Liverpool Catholic Cathedral  this week with Conductor Jan Pascal Tortelier. The Programme on offer is a cracker. Strauss, Tod Und Verklang; Elgar Cello Concerto and Faure Requiem. Champion!

Dean Wright, Principal Trumpet Welsh National Opera and Professor of Trumpet Welsh College of Music

Dean Wright, Principal Trumpet Welsh National Opera and Professor of Trumpet Welsh College of Music

Sometimes we can go for quite a while without seeing anyone from other orchestras etc but then, like buses, plenty come along all at once. The last couple of days have been great for the RLPO… Our old friends, the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera have been performing at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool as they are half way through their tour away from their home in Cardiff. Dean Wright, Principal Trumpet of WNO and I go back a long way together, coming from the same part of the world.


l – r Simon Powell, Simon Cowen and Blyth Lindsay

This has provided a great opportunity for some inter orchestral socialising. Added to that, our old trombone section (Blyth Lindsay and John Langford – both now retired) came out to join our new trombone section of Simon Cowen, Simon Powell and Simon Chappell for a few beers at the same time.


l – r Simon Chappell, Simon Powell, John Langford, Blyth Lindsay and Simon Cowen

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The Great Arnold Jacobs…

The Great Arnold Jacobs

The Great Arnold Jacobs

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Shostakovich During The Siege – Leningrad 1941

Shostakovich photograpphed in 1941 during the siege of Leningrad

Shostakovich photograpphed in 1941 during the siege of Leningrad

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The Arutunian Trumpet Concerto

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m taking a few days off the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra this week. I have been rehearsing in Chichester as I will be performing the Trumpet Concerto by Alexander Arutunian at St. George’s Church, Cleveland Road, Whyke, Chichester this evening. The programme is also to include Holst Beni Mora and Rimsky-Korsakov Sheherazade.

Crispin Ward (conductor) and Brendan

Crispin Ward (conductor) and Brendan

The marvellous University of Chichester Symphony Orchestra, myself and their esteemed professional conductor, Crispin Ward have been rehearsing tirelessly for three days in the university chapel for tonight’s performance. The concert starts at 7.30.


Crispin Ward and the wonderful University of Chichester Symphony Orchestra

Crispin Ward is an international orchestra conductor who has even been knighted for services to music by the Moldovan Government. Continue reading

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