The main draw for this midweek concert was the pairing of the prodigiously talented young conductor Yannick Nzt-Seguin with one of the worlds most venerable pianists, Aldo Ciccolini. Their partnership last year resulted in an electric performance of Rachmaninovs 2nd Piano Concerto, which luckily was recorded for the LPOs own label its release is eagerly anticipated. Here the 86 year old Italian was tackling Mozarts Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor but the question on everyones lips was whether conductor and soloist could recreate the magic that made their last appearance together so magical?
Luckily the answer was yes, although the demands that Mozart makes on the soloist are very different to those of Rachmaninov. Despite his advancing years, Ciccolini displays all the dexterity of a performer half, or even a quarter, of his age and he really makes the music sing. Nor does he feel the need to impose any interpretation onto the work he lets it speak for itself and in so doing the performance offers far more insight than it might have done under a more flamboyant soloist. This was music-making of the highest order and thankfully was recorded for future release. Needless to say Nezet-Seguin and the slimmed-down LPO were the most gracious of accompanists.
The evening began with a persuasive account of Webers Oberon Overture, the fairy kingdom magically ushered in with John Ryans beguiling horn call, and concluded with a freshly-minted performance of Schuberts Symphony No.9 in C (Great). Nzt-Seguin, conducting from memory, achieved diaphanous orchestral textures throughout yet allowed the works rough-hewn edges to come across with visceral power. Speeds were on the fast side, resulting in a blistering Allegro vivace which brought the house down. The concert was dedicated to the memory of Sir Thomas Beecham, who surely would have approved.
Further details of Royal Festival Hall concerts can be found at southbankcentre.co.uk