United Kingdom Schubert, Haydn, Mozart: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Richard Egarr (Conductor/Piano), City Halls, Glasgow, 07.03.2014.(CG)
Schubert: Symphony No 2
Haydn: Piano Concerto in D major
Mozart: Symphony No 41 ‘Jupiter’
In his brief and jovial introduction to the concert, conductor and pianist Richard Egarr promised us a ‘disgustingly happy’ programme. He was certainly right about that! Schubert’s second symphony is one of the works that to my mind at least, one should always hear live. Nothing quite compares to the vitality of the music that comes across through the more immediate experience of performance. The symphony’s first movement was characterised by committed playing and charismatic conducting. Indeed under Egarr’s baton the SCO bristled with life and energy, bringing warmth and drama to Schubert’s modulations. Here and throughout the entire programme the woodwinds produced expressive, warm playing. Meticulously articulated lines characterised the variations of the second movement creating a balanced ensemble sound with some delicate and impeccable flute playing. The third movement displayed commanding and controlled playing that was full of drama. Egarr’s orchestra captured Schubert’s propensity for surprising twists in both harmony and colour. Here too the woodwind playing was superb.The finale was characterised by passionate yet poised playing underpinned by an unrelenting rhythmic drive.
Haydn’s Piano Concerto burst into life through Egarr’s bright sound and energised playing. The improvised cadential points kept the work fresh and sustained an element of surprise throughout while demonstrating the pianist’s credentials in the area of historical performance. These improvised moments provided amuch-needed reminder of the crucial role improvisation played in so many works of the classical period. The cadenzas, supported by the ensemble, were full of surprise, humour and adventure, at times eliciting knowing smiles from a warm and receptive audience. The second movement, Un Poco Adagio, featured a balanced sound relationship between the piano and ensemble in the process endowing Haydn’s score with a depth and thoughtfulness that can occasionally be lacking in the hands of some performers. The third movement, taken at a brisk tempo, displayed crisp playing and brought the enthralling performance of this concerto to a rousing close.
It is sometimes difficult to breathe new life into a much-loved masterpiece – but that was just what the SCO under Egarr’s baton managed to achieve tonight with Mozart’s Jupiter. This was an energetic yet elegant performance, where dramatic moments were tempered by poise and clarity. Throughout, the SCO gave a meticulous and vibrant performance underpinned by playing of great integrity. The effortless performance of the climactic and contrapuntally complex final movement displayed the depth of individual (and group) musicianship as well as the passion that characterises this dynamic chamber orchestra.
A review of the performance of this programme in Edinburgh can be found on