Classical review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Llyr Williams

At City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod
At City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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In recent associations with the SCO, pianist Llyr Williams has shown a side to his musical character clearly bursting to come out.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Llyr Williams | City Halls, Glasgow | Rating ****

It’s the conductor inside him, and it’s very different from the insular intensity that marks his trademark pianism, or his strangely mannered platform entrances.

Put him in front of an orchestra and suddenly a switch goes on; his movements are fluid and meaningful, decisive and clear.

An electrical energy takes hold as he shifts back and ­forward between the piano and the orchestra unfolding – in Friday’s case – Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with a cool mixture of intellect, ­interpretational vitality and the easeful ability to do a ­double act as soloist and ­director.

Yet this was clearly a vision of the work that Williams created from the pianist’s viewpoint. The opening movement was spacious and warm, nothing hurried, nothing impetuous, allowing the music’s rhetoric to state its case with thoughtfulness and precision. He held back the real pyrotechnics for the finale, which bristled with playfulness and wit, all the more effective for a slow movement that was spacious and sublime.

The first half fell under the dual-role direction of former SCO leader Alexander Janiczek, and was somehow less engrossing. It opened with some 18th century sturm und drang - CPE Bach’s E flat Symphony - its steamy impetuosity occasionally lapsing into untidiness.

Janiczek’s solo playing in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 1 and Rondo Concertante, had lovely clean lines, but was troubled by the violinist’s uncomfortable tendency to play sharp.