United Kingdom Stravinsky, Mozart, Beethoven: Jane Atkins (viola), Llŷr Williams (director/piano), Alexander Janiczek (director/violin), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 15.1.2015 (SRT)
Stravinsky: Concerto in Re
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante
Symphony No. 31 “Paris”
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra have long been famous for the collective nature of their music making. Of course, the collective achievement is important for every orchestra, but there’s something particularly impressive about the collegiate nature of the way these musicians support one another. Alexander Janizek’s conductorless concerts often bring that to the fore, and I’ve waxed lyrical in the past about times when the orchestral principals have played the solo part in concertos. Tonight, however, put both those virtues together when Janiczek directed as leader while, at the same time, playing the violin solo in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante together with principal viola, Jane Atkins. The orchestral always provide a special blanket of support when the soloist is one of their own, but having the soloist as director made this even more triumphant this evening. The soloists emerged from and melted into the orchestral fabric seamlessly, and it was often difficult to tell from exactly which source a sound was coming (to which I say, Bravo!). Janiczek’s bright, leaping violin played the extrovert to Atkins’ velvety, autumnal viola, full of insular reflection and beautiful tone. They were very effective, both as a contrast and as a partnership, exciting in the outer movements and moving in the dusky, reflective Andante.
Llŷr Williams has directed the SCO from the keyboard once before. I mentioned then that his conducting is no great shakes, but it brings out more of his personality, and that was welcome tonight as he extracted a bigger, more extrovert tone from the strings and matched that with playing of subtle inwardness. The highlight came at the beautifully still coda of the Adagio with the strings and orchestra balanced like two halves of a perfect whole.
The concert opened with Stravinsky’s neoclassical Concerto in Re and ended with Mozart’s Paris Symphony, which proved a surprisingly apt pairing. The Stravinsky pulsed along with lots of organic chugging in the outer movements, particularly incisively so in the finale, but with the strings broadening out into something warm and inviting during the slow interlude of the opening Vivace. Mozart’s symphony then burst onto the scene with élan, its outer movements ebullient and vigorous, and the vigorous spinning of the finale actually brought the rhythmic pulsing of Stravinsky’s concerto back to my mind. Neoclassical indeed!