Steven Osborne and the Aurora play Mozart and Shostakovich

Piano Concerto No.23 in A, K488 [arranged for piano and string quintet by Ignaz Lachner]

Sylvia Lim
Points of intersection, for trombone and string quartet [first performance]

Piano Quintet in G-minor, Op.57

Steven Osborne (piano)
Matthew Gee (trombone)

Alexandra Wood, Jamie Campbell (violins); Ruth Gibson (viola); Sébastien van Kuijk (cello); Ben Griffiths (double bass)

Reviewed by: Peter Reed

Reviewed: 12 December, 2020
Venue: Hall One, Kings Place, London

There was an odd sense of reversal of fortune at work in this chamber music concert, all down to Steven Osborne’s role in the programme’s two main works. In Ignaz Lachner’s skillful reduction of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23, visually the piano yielded pole position to the five string players, which Osborne compounded with an elegant but distanced presence as soloist. We’ve all seen him in fully-staged Concertos interacting like mad with the orchestra and conductor, but, give or take a few ensemble-checking nods and glances, the piano part unfolded with Olympian finesse until the Osborne magic surfaced in a ravishing, quietly romantic caressing of the melancholy slow movement. The quintet delivered the orchestral goods with impressive breadth, detail and variety. The performance was one of the Aurora’s survey of all the Mozart piano concertos, and Osborne replaced the Spanish pianist Javier Perianes because of travel restrictions.

Osborne then guided a magnificent outing of Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, a work bulging with orchestral aspiration and symphonic gestures. Osborne is well known for his skill at getting behind the notes, and here he and his team surpassed themselves in terms of imagination and identification, taking psychosis, glimpses into the abyss and Shostakovich’s seemingly artless skill at saying one thing while meaning another in their stride.

In between music from these giants came Sylvia Lim’s Points of intersection, an Aurora commission scored for trombone and string quartet. Lim, in her late-twenties, is an Australian composer and teacher based in the UK, and on the evidence of this new work has a well-developed impressionist imagination, which came across in the micro-tonal decays, blurrings and opacities of musical lines blending into each other like fog. It was well done, even if there was no immediately discernible voice. It was a piece that could have been heard, say, fifty years ago, another examination of the minutiae of music that seems to thrive in music colleges.Tom Service was the evening’s bushy-tailed announcer, cheerleader and animateur.

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