A Tale of Two Soloist-Directors

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schumann: Piotr Anderszewski (director/piano), Alexander Janiczek (director/violin), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 15.5.2014 (SRT)

Mendelssohn: Sinfonia No. 12; Overture, Son and Stranger;
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 12
Schumann: Piano Concerto


When Alexander Janiczek and Piotr Anderszewski appear with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, they tend to treat us to a conductorless concert, so having both on the same platform seems like largesse. I quickly noticed, though, that Janiczek is much better at holding the balance of playing and directing. He shaped the two Mendelssohn works really convincingly while managing to play his own part too; no mean feat! The Son and Stranger overture was sunny and light-hearted, and had a lovely sense of flow, while the youthful String Symphony was surprisingly developed and serious, only the lack of proportionality of the finale betraying the 14-year old composer’s lack of experience when he wrote it. The introduction was solemn, leading to a (precociously) academic fugue, and things really came to life with the lovely, endless line of the Andante, its long legato seeming to unfold in one breath. The finale sounded like a Handel concerto grosso, with a starkly original ending of dying pizzicato before a headlong dash for the finishing line.

Anderszewski’s partnership with the SCO has always brought lots of benefits, but I found his Mozart rather earthbound and clunky, at least in its outer movements. After a light, bouncy tutti the piano line felt strangely heavy, and his “direction” was all but ineffectual, waving his hands so close to the keyboard that barely anyone in the orchestra must have been able to see him. The second violins certainly couldn’t, which explains why they weren’t all together at the very opening.   If any shaping was being done then it was being done (tactfully and subtly) by Janiczek, who held the gaze of most of the players and kept things going with a good sense of movement, clearly something that both musicians had worked out in rehearsal. However, if the orchestra couldn’t respond to what they could see of Anderszewski , they certainly responded to what they heard. His beautifully flowing playing grounded a conversational performance of the Schumann concerto, with a gentle Intermezzo (featuring some outstanding sound from the cellos) and an ebullient finale that was light on its feet. Better yet, though, was Mozart’s central Andante, one of his most quietly radiant slow movements, here played with a gorgeous sense of blend, anchored in a piano line that was beautiful (and disarming) in its simplicity.

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Simon Thompson


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