THE RSNO’s all-Beethoven evening could have been a straightforward concert – and a very good one at that – in the orchestra’s classical season.
RSNO/Peter Oundjian, John Suchet’s Beethoven
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
But by turning it into a Classic FM-branded, John Suchet-compered event, it became an uneasy mixture of rather simplistic (if enthusiastic) commentary and compelling playing from the orchestra under music director Peter Oundjian.
Suchet clearly knows a lot about a composer whose music he loves – he’s written six books on Beethoven – but that only made it all the more frustrating that he said so little that challenged or provided fresh insights. He offered a passionate but personal perspective on the composer, but if it wasn’t one you shared, you might have been left wondering what it added.
But what was most important was the music itself. The evening’s highlight was young French pianist (and winner of last year’s Scottish International Piano Competition) Jonathan Fournel’s traversal of the Third Piano Concerto – beautifully articulated, finely balanced and impeccably characterised, it was elegant but never lacking in strength or volatile power. He was a modest performer, not out to stamp his personality all over the piece, but by letting the music speak eloquently he made his account all the more vivid. He left the orchestra sounding slightly matter-of-fact – but that’s the last thing they were in Oundjian’s concluding Fifth Symphony, urgent and terse in a thrilling first movement, both crisp and brisk, and exquisitely shaped in a tender second movement.
It was a fresh, fascinating vision of what’s probably the repertoire’s most famous work.