WHAT were we to make of an SCO programme whose second half seemed, on paper, to be a second helping of the first?
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra | Rating: ***** | Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Well, it was typical of Andrew Manze – a conductor who likes to flirt with unorthodoxy when it comes to concert planning - to challenge our preconceptions by offering two equal halves, both containing a Beethoven overture and a Mozart piano concerto. And who was complaining, when we got to hear the mesmerising pianism of Francesco Piemontesi twice? This young Swiss pianist plays Mozart with a combination of intellectual composure and insight symbolic of his known association with Alfred Brendel.
But the real fascination in these concerto performances – Mozart’s K503 in C and K537 in D (the so-called “Coronation”) – was the poetic sincerity of Piemontesi’s interpretations.
In the earlier C major, the mood was slightly muted, he and Manze performing magic with its premonitions of Beethoven: the rigorous textural interplay of piano and orchestra, or such juicy details as the low growling keyboard registers.
The D major concerto offered a completely different Mozartian experience, Piemontesi addressing its brighter hues with polished incision and a sense of musical line as controlled as it was adventurous. Again, Manze and the SCO did more than simply accompany. They bargained on equal terms, feeding off the soloist’s lead, but also throwing unexpected curve balls at him.
As for the Beethoven overtures – Coriolan and Prometheus – what better appetisers for the Mozart, especially when delivered with such excitement, precision and theatricality.