Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Leeds Town Hall

Sensational Swedish trombonist, composer and conductor Christian Lindberg brings a refreshingly unconventional style to the concert hall.

The 56-year-old has discarded the traditional evening dress in favour of slim-fit black chinos and eye-catching shirts. Each time Lindberg left the stage between pieces, he sprinted back in a different coloured shirt and with a kittenish leap mounted the podium.

Lindberg conducts with his whole body, baton in the left hand, conveying his interpretive wishes with sweeping muscular gestures. This conductor clearly knows what he wants from his orchestra, and gets it. The sense of elevation in Wilhelm Stenhammar’s attractive Excelsior! Symphonic Overture Opus 13 was palpable in Lindberg’s urgent upward movement as he moulded the strings of the RLPO into an athletic body of balletic grace and crystalline clarity.

Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, in the hands of Lindberg and solo pianist Roland Pontinen, came across as pristine and modern in one of the most lucid performances of this old warhorse that I can recall.

The second half was devoted to music by Sibelius beginning with his eerie tone poem The Swan Of Tuonela; the music emerging, it seemed, from the dark and mysterious depths of the river surrounding the mythical land of death.

Lindberg’s phrasing and careful layering of orchestral textures produced ravishing contributions from cor anglais soloist Zoe Kitson and principal cello Jonathan Aasgaard.

Following his first two symphonies, Sibelius adopted a much more restrained classical style for the third and subsequent ones. The austere sound world that the Finnish composer had started to explore in his Symphony No 3 in C major was evoked with gripping intensity in Lindberg’s performance.

His electrifying reading pulsed with energy and was played with unbridled rhythmic vitality. The excellent Royal Liverpool Philharmonic obviously enjoyed playing for a conductor who so brilliantly connects with musicians and audience alike.

Geoffrey Mogridge