Pierre-Laurent Aimard opened with an exceptionally well-crafted and -performed recital of about twenty numbers from Schubert’s more than three-hundred dances. Listening to him strum these delightful Waltzes, Ländlers and Ecossaises was totally captivating. These charmingly simple and gracefully good-natured miniatures – from time to time clouded by an unexpected touch of melancholy by way of an accent or momentary modulation into the minor – were the perfect mood-setter for the concert that followed.
The main event began with a spontaneous, crisply articulated and masterful rendition of Beethoven’s G-major Piano Concerto. Aimard opened the expansive first movement with tenderness, and with Gianandrea Noseda and the MMFO providing a matching accompaniment, he was poetically lyrical throughout, sometimes in accord with – at other times in contrast to – the collective musicians, the latter quality especially effective in the Andante, as the forceful strings became placated by Aimard’s exceedingly gentle response. In the spirited Finale, Noseda matched the pianist in drawing transparent textures from the orchestra.
The echoes of Beethoven were apparent in a magisterial account of Schubert’s ‘Great C-major’ Symphony, a warm, beautifully coordinated, energetic reading. From the opening majestic horn-call to the resolute conclusion, Noseda was in control – for perfect pacing, smooth transitions, and fluidly managed tempo-changes. The genial, infectious Scherzo – a further reminder that Schubert is one of the great dance composers – frolicked vigorously before the increasingly intense and beautifully articulated Finale brought this satisfying evening to a jubilant end.