Die Zauberharfe, D644 Overture [Rosamunde, D797]
Piano Concerto No.3
Symphony No.9 in C, D944 (Great)
Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Reviewed by: Andrew Toovey
Reviewed: 2 April, 2006
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
This concert was a mixture of surprises and disappointments. The Schubert overture, best known as “Rosamunde” (its ‘Magic Harp’ original assigned a Köchel number in the LSO’s programme!), was characterful, especially in the melodic aspects, but needed more careful attention elsewhere. The arrangement of the strings – second violins next to firsts, cellos centre-right, violas to the right (where cellos, or second violins, would more usually be) and double basses in a row behind second violins and cellos – might suggest that inner parts would be more characterised. In fact Gardiner continually over-exaggerated the melodic line. There were five double basses for Schubert, six for Bartók: a consistently too light foundation.
The disappointment was the Bartók. Whereas in both Schubert pieces Gardiner had the measure of the structure, the Bartók was a collection of moments. There was no chemistry between conductor and pianist, and Piotr Anderszewski made little attempt to connect the musical material, his phrasing often sounding quirky and uncomfortable. The first movement suffered the most, Anderszewski running through phrases as if in a warm-up session. The second movement with its beautiful chorale-like ideas fared better, save that the voicing of the chords could have been better judged, although the LSO strings made a beautiful golden sound. In the finale some dialogue between the parties was now apparent.
The ‘Great C major’ was a different matter, Gardiner leading a rhythmically taut, punchy performance that at times lacked the subtlety and grace ever-present in Schubert’s music; the timpani, always beaten with rather hard sticks, was an example of this, yet the prominent parts for three trombones were played consistently beautifully, allowing the music to glow warmly.