Occasionally in the concert hall, the intense silence of a fully concentrating audience becomes almost overwhelming. Such was the case at a packed City Halls during Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire’s performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. From the outset, Freire’s delicacy and lightness of touch were astonishing. With the piano almost inaudible at times, the soloist drew the rapt audience into his private emotional world. The brusque interventions of the orchestra in the second movement were gently overcome and the third movement was a model of musical understatement. A performance of great beauty.
Glasgow-born Martin Suckling had Edward Lear’s poetry for company as he was composing The Moon, The Moon!, which opened the concert. Low brass and percussion were to the fore as the quirky music gained Oriental overtones and then a characteristically Scottish keening sound in the strings. Ilan Volkov, Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC SSO, rounded off the evening, and the 2010/11 Season, with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Here the orchestra was finally let off its leash, to thrilling effect in the first and last movements. Yet despite some impassioned playing in the inner movements, the effect was one of skimming over the surface of the music, leaving a hole in the centre of the piece where its heart should have been.
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