This concert was the last of Toby Purser and his Orion Orchestra’s Alpha & Omega series: a simple but rewarding concept of pairing works from the start and end of a composer’s output. Beethoven’s B-flat Piano Concerto was written during 1787-89 and the ‘Choral’ Symphony dates from 1822-24, three years before his death. This occasion was also Purser’s last as Orion’s Artistic Director.
The Concerto received a clean and nuanced outing. Pavel Kolesnikov eschewed the civility that is often attracted to it in favour of muscularity, nonchalance and vigour, which worked a treat with Purser’s dynamism, blowing away cobwebs, and with a slow movement soulful and searching without ever being maudlin, complemented by some hauntingly soft string-playing and then a deft Finale.
The ‘Choral’ Symphony received a terrifically exciting outing that lived up to its call-to-arms-in-brotherhood theme, a performance that punched at the stars. And so the first movement was a relentless headlong dash, with strict and consistent tempos lending an air of defiance, and the Scherzo enjoyed wonderfully detailed interplay, and there was no hanging around either. Whether there is a slow movement in this Symphony is a moot point, for here it benefited from flow and delightful dovetailing. Then to the Schiller-inspired Finale, here tremendous, suitably joyous and communicating exhilarated feeling, with mostly fine solo singing and glorious contributions from the London Philharmonic Choir: fraternal music-making.