At first glance, placing a conductor-less orchestral piece by Poulenc between two Mozart piano concertos looked a little bit puzzling at the Queen’s Hall on Thursday evening. Yet, on hearing the deliciously witty Sinfonietta and Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos 17 and 24 in the context of each other, it all made perfect and pleasurable sense.
The SCO & Piotr Anderszewski, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ****
Both composers demonstrating what the orchestra is capable of without a conductor permanently in front of them, the Poulenc was skilfully directed from the violin by the SCO’s leader, Stephanie Gonley, and the Mozart directed from the keyboard by the brilliant piano soloist Piotr Anderszewski.
If the theatrical elements of the Poulenc paved the way for the dramatic opening of No 24, it was the concerto which, in turn, led reflectively back to No 17. It opened the concert with purposeful forward flow from Anderszewski. Seamlessly gliding between his dual role as player and director, he showed phenomenal technical prowess coupled with exquisite elasticity.
In the second concerto too, he shaded and shaped the music with imperceptible shift, whether the full sound of the first movement or the quieter dignity of the second before the closing variations of the Allegretto. Soloist as conductor means there is still hands-on conducting while not playing the piano.
Harder for Gonley to achieve the finer points of a balanced orchestral sound plus play the violin, but she kept everything remarkably tight, as well as making the most of the instrumental interplay across the orchestra.