THE Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, under baton of Vasily Petrenko, opened its latest concert at Sage Gateshead with a piece by the little-known composer Russian composer Anatoly Liadov.

One reason for his obscurity, perhaps, was his reputation as one of history's laziest classical composers, remembered more for what he failed to achieve than for the few works he wrote. When Liadov did not deliver on a ballet score for Sergei Diaghilev, the impresario enlisted the help of Igor Stravinsky, who submitted his work The Firebird, thereby launching his own international career.

It took Liadov ten yeas to complete the three-minute Baba Yaga. Petrenko made each second count, in a musical gem depicting a grotesque fairy of Slavic folklore flying through the trees.

Tchaikovsky's ambitious Violin Concerto in D was fronted by violinist Sergej Krylov, who drew out the grandeur of the first movement with Petrenko maintaining buoyant and sympathetic support throughout. Sparks, along with horsehair, flew in a scorching cadenza. Krylov plucked his frayed bow clean to give a sublime account of the serene slow movement, before scampering helter-skelter through a tightly-wrought finale.

Richard Strauss' tone poem Death and Transfiguration opened with a haunting pulse on strings and timpani, suggesting a dying artist's ailing heart, before the audience was taken on a colourful journey through thoughts of his past life. At its height it felt like being engulfed by sonic wave.

The evening was rounded off with Stravinsky's, Symphony in Three Movements, described as the composer's war symphony and reflecting what composer he had seen in newsreels. The first movement was a seething cauldron with stabbing crescendoes, while the slow movement featured a wonderful melody over solid bass line. Stravinsky's depiction of Nazi troops’ goose-stepping march was vividly conveyed.

Asked by a young girl during a pre-concert talk what he liked most about his job, Petrenko replied it was enriching the of others. That he and the orchestra certainly did.

Gavin Engelbrecht