An Enterprising Programme Finds the LPO on Fine Form

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Stravinsky, Weber, Schubert: Peter Donohoe (piano), London Philharmonic Orchestra / Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 21.3.2018. (AS)

Stravinsky – ApolloCapriccio for piano and orchestra

WeberKonzertstück in F minor for piano and orchestra, Op.79

Schubert – Symphony No.3 in D, D200

Apollo is rightly described as one of Stravinsky’s most beautiful scores, but that beauty is not quite of the obvious kind one finds in a Tchaikovsky ballet. There is classical severity in the Stravinsky, and emotions should be encountered as if distilled through the elegance of the style in which the work is written. It also needs a certain clarity of presentation, with rhythms, however gentle, firmly pointed. In his reading of the score Andrés Orozco-Estrada rather weakened its underlying strength through a slightly too expressive approach to it. So instead of the work’s very distinctive variations of mood emerging cleanly and naturally they were rather subsumed in a more generalised, slightly romantic haze. But there was much to enjoy about the performance at its own level.

Weber’s attractive, concise Konzertstück is one of those works that suffers through being too short to be played as a concert’s concerto item on its own. The brilliance of the work’s piano writing suited Peter Donohoe’s effortless virtuosity, but then in the slower, more inward sections of the one-movement piece his playing tended to be brittle and rather unfeeling. The expressive qualities of the work were not adequately revealed.

Stravinsky’s Capriccio formed an ideal programme partner for the Weber. It was to be anticipated that this piece would suit Donohoe’s playing style rather more, and such proved to be the case. With Orozco-Estrada and the LPO in close accord throughout a work that must place high demands on accurate ensemble between soloist and orchestra, Donohoe gave a dazzling performance – vivacious, witty and with explosive energy in the faster outer movements, and with a gritty, determinedly poker-faced neo-classical approach in the central Andante. As an encore Donohoe gave a deadpan performance of the solo piano version of Stravinsky’s Tango.

Schubert’s youthful Third Symphony formed a delightful end to a varied concert. Orozco-Estrada used a medium-sized ensemble, so that there was plenty of body in the sound, and his performance was charmingly affectionate, with tempi usually on the brisk side, but nothing driven too hard, and plenty of room for nicely lilting rhythms and delightful turns of phrase. The only pity was that the conductor did not separate the violin sections in this work, but routinely placed the cello section on his right.

What a shame it was that such an enterprising programme, very finely played throughout by the LPO, did not entice a larger audience.

Alan Sanders

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