The young Mendelssohn’s Hebrides introduced me to sonata form – it was my O level set work. Surprisingly I still like it ! The SSO got straight into it on Sunday night with some deft playing and luscious sounds – it’s hard not to get pictorial and atmospheric – would it work without the hint in the title? Yes undoubtedly; it’s a very fine example of craftsmanship and artistry coming out of circumstance. This performance was beautifully paced, well-articulated, with fine clarity in the detailing from woodwind, strings and brass. A terrific opener.
More music from young artists with the concerto, both composer and soloist essentially students, and there was a beguiling freshness about this performance. Chopin’s few orchestral works tend to get criticised for his handling of the orchestra but there was a feeling of a chamber music interplay in this performance that gave an intimacy sometimes lost in pieces perceived as virtuoso showcases. Pianist Artur Haftman, sharing Polish roots with the composer, seemed to find a delicate voice, perhaps remembering that Chopin would not have had a big Steinway at his disposal. The twenty-four-year-old clearly has the style [and the notes] at his finger-tips, in live performance tiny memory lapses do not matter, his phrasing and the sound drawn from the piano left one enjoying this really musical playing. Davison and the SSO always work really hard for their young proteges, this was a fine example of that care. D.D. meticulous in listening to and placing the cadential moments of the Chopin arabesques, the orchestra almost universally alert to his downbeat, and crucially using their ears also. The slow movement conveyed an affecting pathos, and the dancing finale had all the virtuosity we look for in a C19th concerto.
A fragment from Schubert’s incidental music for ‘Rosamunde’ gave us an ‘amuse bouche’ after the interval before we got into Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony which was after all the main course.
The players gave us a serious look at this symphony and we liked what we saw. It was good to hear the sound of the strings in an open generous acoustic – the string sound is good, even in a space with no hiding place. The woodwind could put over their careful detailing without having to force it, brass punctuation was appropriately positive, it was a good sounding orchestra. We were treated to involving music making. The slow movement well-paced – not too slow, not superficial in any way, nicely serious yet confident. The scherzo particularly energising – a few wanted to applaud and were restrained by their neighbours. Energy fuelled the finale too – I guess some of the band wouldn’t willingly ever get up at a dance, but they seemed to know what it should be about.