Belmont Ensemble of London – 3 January

Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat, Op.73 (Emperor)
Don Giovanni – Overture
The Marriage of Figaro – Overture
Symphony No.41 in C, K551 (Jupiter)

Sam Haywood (piano)

Belmont Ensemble of London
Peter Gilbert-Dyson

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 3 January, 2003
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Tuning to a decidedly flat oboe A in the cauldron that is the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Belmont Ensemble breezed in with an underplayed Don Giovanni overture. Poised playing certainly, this rendition was too comfortable, rarely suggestive of the opera to follow, more a portrait of a retired Don, his wine cellar empty, ardour dampened. The second half paired the Figaro overture and ’Jupiter’ symphony. The former taken at a welcome sensible tempo, the latter was equally stylish with some good playing from woodwinds and lower strings. The violins (not antiphonal, as this music really demands) displayed a lack of unanimity at times, and would have benefited from more rehearsal to get together on some finer points. With outer movement repeats in place (although not the most important one, the finale’s second half), this ’Jupiter’ was both dynamic and vividly projected. Horn and trumpet details leapt out interestingly, if tending to cover the main argument, and the ’Andante cantabile’ would have enjoyed a less-pushed tempo.

The ’Emperor’ was tuned to the piano’s A, but the oboes didn’t quite find it. Some tuning problems bedevilled the accompaniment, but there was no doubting the vigour either. Sam Haywood made a poised and aristocratic entrance and created a good impression without recourse to novelty. This was a rendition that put the music first and caught the ear with some thoughtful contrasts of mood and deft left-hand playing. Slightly worrying was what seemed lapses of concentration on Haywood’s part that brought some wrong and missed notes. Impressive overall though.

The Belmont Ensemble is to be found in London often, not least with several performances of The Four Seasons. The years just fly by!

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