Overture, Le carnaval romain, Op.9
Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat, Op.73 (Emperor)
Symphony No.1 in A flat, Op.55
Masayuki Tayama (piano)
Corinthian Chamber Orchestra
Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker
Reviewed: 14 May, 2012
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
What exactly constitutes a ‘chamber’ orchestra? Is it repertoire (possibly) or the number of musicians (more likely, one should imagine)? Such questions were posed by this concert in which the 83-piece Corinthian Chamber Orchestra (26 violins and 10 cellos) programmed Berlioz and Elgar – music scored for many more musicians than would seem necessary for music by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert, for examples, composers whose work we often hear performed by orchestras of widely-accepted ‘chamber’ size.
This preamble is a plea to get the Corinthians to change name – perhaps to the Corinthian Philharmonic – or simply drop the word ‘Chamber’? The current title implies an orchestra of lesser strength than the music programmed demands: a similar comment was made after a Corinthian concert last year which included Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony. The result, with regard to pre-concert publicity, may have led some people to stay away, thinking they might be short-changed in the size-of-the-orchestra stakes.
If they did, they missed something very worthwhile with regard to those two works, which suit the musical capabilities of Adrian Brown admirably; Brown is still the only British conductor to have reached the finals of the Herbert von Karajan conducting competition – yet the major British orchestras, obsessed with foreign talent, continue to ignore our native musicians.
However, the big-named orchestras’ loss is the Corinthian Orchestra’s – and our – gain, for Brown delivered a magnificent interpretation of the Elgar, simply superb from first bar to last, a performance of such depth and understanding as he had brought to Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture. In the final analysis, of course, the Corinthian Orchestra is not a fully-professional body, and any technical shortcomings as were apparent were more than compensated for by the committed nature of the playing.
The young Japanese-born pianist Masayuki Tayama was the soloist in Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’, but his contribution rarely equalled that of his conductor, except in certain passages in the finale. Despite having appeared – so we learned from the programme – relatively frequently as a concerto soloist, his platform manner was deplorable. Throughout this masterpiece, when he wasn’t playing, and whilst waiting for his next entry, he wiped his brow, wiped the piano keys (black and white), adjusted his coat, posture, bow-tie, and – worst of all – leaned forward with his arms on the key-fall, above the key-board, for all the world as a boxer taking a breather between rounds. This behaviour was a serious visual obstruction and distraction for the audience, who would normally be intent on concentrating on what Brown and the orchestra were doing – as the soloist himself should have done. Arthur Rubinstein or Alfred Brendel, still less any other worthwhile soloist we can remember, never engaged in such behaviour.