United Kingdom Beethoven and Bruckner: Javier Perianes (piano), London Philharmonic Orchestra, Robin Ticciati (conductor), Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 15.4.2015 (AS)
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 in E flat, ‘Romantic’ (Nowak edition, revised 1878 with 1880 finale)
Even before Javier Perianes struck the first notes of the concerto it was interesting to see that he was using a Yamaha instrument and that Robin Ticciati had arranged the string sections in an unusual formation. The first and second violins were divided on either side of him at the front of the platform, which is becoming less unusual these days, but it was a surprise to see the cellos grouped at a 45 degree angle behind the firsts on the left, with the double basses behind them. Whatever the acoustical reasons for this may have been, the sound was certainly well balanced.
At once it was clear that we were going to hear a very expressive account of the concerto, for those first notes were played by Perianes with exquisite tenderness, and Ticciati’s response and his conducting of the opening tutti in general was acutely sensitive. And as the movement progressed a fine balance was struck between intimacy of expression and clarity of execution, with Perianes producing an attractively clean, sparkling tone quality. His account of the cadenza had a certain authority of presentation: though phrased flexibly it seemed for the moment that this was the only way to play the music.
A surprise awaited listeners at the outset of the slow movement. Usually the orchestra’s opening statement is played in a rather portentous, emphatic fashion, but Ticciati took it much more quickly and urgently than usual, which made the contrast with the piano’s reflective response, played beautifully by Perianes, all the more effective. It was good to hear such a departure from the norm, and the movement as a whole had a fresh, deeply considered quality in the exchanges between orchestra and pianist.
The finale was taken quite quickly, with both delicacy and strength very much in evidence: here Perianes’s apparently effortless, mercurial playing was a delight. As a whole it was a performance that made this listener hear the familiar (perhaps over-familiar) work in a new light.
For his performance of the symphony Ticciati maintained the same grouping of the strings, though naturally there were more players in each section, and of course a much enlarged brass section. The programme note offered no specific comment about the edition: the Nowak version used on this occasion is considered to be virtuous. Ticciati’s account of the opening movement was expansive and finely paced: he has the gift of projecting this music effectively over its long span, with Bruckner’s characteristic pauses particularly well judged, so that its structure is made clear. At the same time he has the knack of finding the right expressive quality of expression for each sequence of detail. The slow movement flowed beautifully and with inevitable momentum, with balanced fluctuations of tempo. The scherzo went on its bucolic, jolly way at quite a fast rate, its folk dance-like trio section played with tender simplicity.
In the finale Ticciati took great care in bringing the somewhat diverse material together through adroit choice of tempi: there was also a great deal of energy and drama in the response he obtained from the LPO players – the brass section particularly. Only at the very end was the final climax just a little lacking in grandeur and weighty pomposity, so that the work seemed to come to an abrupt end. But the performance as a whole was received with justified acclaim.