Symphony No.40 in G minor, K550
Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58
Symphony No.4 in C minor, D417 (Tragic)
Artur Pizarro (piano)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Reviewed by: Richard Landau
Reviewed: 4 May, 2011
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
This concert by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was planned for Sir Charles Mackerras who passed away last July. The high esteem in which he was held was evident from the presence of so many colleagues. Roy Goodman, another conductor much engaged in historically informed practice, took the concert over.
The real successes were the Beethoven piano concerto and the Schubert symphony. In the former, Artur Pizarro played on a David Winston fortepiano, an instrument endowed with an attractively full tone. Whether in rapid runs or in legato passages Pizarro’s playing was full of clarity, vitality, and – not always attained with such an instrument – a high degree of expression, exemplified in the first-movement cadenza, which had a pearly beauty. The brief Andante con moto had a truly prayerful quality, and the nimbleness of Pizarro’s playing in the finale was a delight too, and there were many vivid details in the orchestra, trumpets and horns especially. The unusually buoyant and rich contribution of the double bassists (Chi-Chi Nwanoku, Cecelia Bruggermeyer and Ana Cordova Andres) was a source of unmitigated pleasure, as throughout.
The first movement of Schubert’s ‘Tragic’ Symphony had an appropriately dark tone, and just before the transition to the Allegro vivace the oboes of Anthony Robson and Richard Earle cut through the texture in a manner that recalled Mozart at his most poignant, Goodman then eliciting a response that was, by turns, elegantly sinuous and robust with finely detailed playing from violas and cellos. The second movement was taken at a real Andante, with some fine work from violins, and woodwind touches at the close were extremely touching. The finale had an infectious energy, the conjunction of ‘period’ timpani and brass adding a particular weight and colour to the final pages.
Oddly, despite being taken at a fair old lick, the opening work, Mozart’s G minor Symphony, at first seemed under-energised. But there were some wonderfully ripe contributions from winds and horns in the Minuet and Trio, and the playing in the finale was as vital as one could wish for. The surprise encore was William (‘Billy’) Thorpe’s arrangement of “If you knew Susie” in the style of the overture to “Le nozze di Figaro”. Performed with a huge sense of fun, this was an unbuttoned ending to an evening dedicated to a greatly missed giant.