United Kingdom Wagner, Mozart, Beethoven: Maria João Pires (piano), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Robin Ticciati (conductor) Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 15.11.2012 (SRT)
Wagner – Siegfried Idyll
Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 17
Beethoven – Symphony No. 6, ‘Pastoral’
One of the joys of regular concert-going comes when a piece of music, be it ever so familiar, is shown up in a new light and a fresh perspective. Robin Ticciati is very good at exactly that, and it came half way through Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony tonight. The first two movements were very fine; upbeat, flexible and lithe without being too remarkable. But things perked up considerably from the Scherzo onwards. The bounce of the rhythm was completely infectious, and the instrumental colour was perfectly descriptive, be it in the skirl of the winds or the drunken glissandi of the strings. Careful gradation of the dynamics then made the storm really exciting, and at the onset of the finale the strings took on a whole new tone of grandeur, almost heroism. In a reading of the symphony that had been on the fast side, Ticciati’s slowing up before the coda was one example of the skill with which he can colour a phrase and make it seem new and exciting.
The strings had been incredibly impressive in the Siegfried Idyll too, creating a beautiful sound that was full but at the same time transparent, only 24 of them (plus 8 winds) proving an ideal size for the music. As well as bringing their own line to life, they also provided a gorgeous bed of sound for the solo winds, especially the clarinet of Maximiliano Martín, who was perky in the bird calls but gave a heart-stopping descent towards the end. “Perky” is a good work for the Mozart concerto too, bouncy and neat with a permanent smile on its face, supporting delectable playing from Maria João Pires. Her style of playing is so graceful and silky that she seems almost to stroke the keyboard as she plays, and the sense you get from her performance is of a genuine conversation between orchestra and soloist, communicating with one another through some strange magic. With outer movements that were upbeat and optimistic, the Andante then sounded almost hymn-like in its simplicity, beautiful, chaste and clean.