Royal Scottish National Orchestra | Rating **** | Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Stepping in at short notice to replace advertised soloist Igor Levit, the 2012 Leeds Piano Competition winner Federico Colli is an impressive young Italian talent whose name will undoubtedly become increasingly familiar.
Graceful and lyrical, he glides across the keyboard, with an almost shy gentleness permeating the concerto’s opening allegro.
Colli certainly does virtuosity too. The cadenza was a burst of clean, clear expression, matched by the orchestra joining him in complementary accompaniment.
Substituting Szymanowski’s Symphony No 4, in effect a piano concerto, for Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Haydn, was less of a like for like. But experiencing the affectionate warmth of Brahms’ treatment of the St Anthony Chorale theme, taken from a Haydn wind serenade, from the RSNO and their principal guest conductor, Thomas Søndergård, revealed the playful characteristics of the main tune and its eight variations.
A second half of Beethoven’s Symphony No 8, as billed, again heard the orchestra perform with exceptional transparency.
Bursting with life, the opening was strong and optimistic, Søndergård’s ever meticulous direction bringing out Beethoven’s masterly layers of orchestration.
Sometimes delicate, at others firing out tight rhythms, but always building up to the next pivotal moment, it was a performance with edge of the seat excitement.