United Kingdom Stravinsky, Mozart, Beethoven: Alexander Janiczek (violin/director), Llŷr Williams (piano/director), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 6.11.2014 (SRT)
Stravinsky: Concertino for 12 instruments
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1
Alexander Janiczek’s concerts with the SCO tend to focus around conductorless concertos, and so it proved tonight, very successfully. Stravinsky’s Concertino very nearly falls into that category but, brilliantly as it was played, it seemed like a rather zany companion to Mozart and Beethoven.
I really enjoyed Janiczek’s way with Mozart’s G major concerto. The orchestra produced big-sound-bounce in the opening movement, leaning persuasively into Mozart’s phrases. In contrast, Janiczek played with beautiful, long legato style with a real feeling of songfulness, especially in the cadenzas. The orchestral sound had a soft focus in the slow movement, then cheerful cheek in the Rondeau finale with a distinctive, beautiful turn to the central minor key episode.
Beethoven’s concerto brought a new soloist and a new director in SCO favourite, Llŷr Williams. He is much less of an orchestral director than Janiczek is: throughout the opening tutti, in fact, he seemed to do little more than beat time. However, the magic began with an opening piano turn where he seemed almost to tickle the keyboard, and this set off a performance where it was clear that everyone was listening to one another. Williams is so popular here because he brings something fresh, and there was, for example, a lovely sense of what’s-coming-next? to the end of the development, which culminated in a triumphantly boisterous orchestral re-statement of the main theme. Williams seemed to enjoy being left to himself in the cadenza, and he was especially impressive in the huge clusters of notes that came towards the end. True, he didn’t seem quite so interested in the steady progress of the Largo, but he brought plenty of sparkle to the finale, with bags of wit in the swinging central section. Throughout, the orchestra revelled in the vigorous, confident writing that Beethoven showers them with. A good dose of C major can be like a tonic sometimes!