Opera + Classical Music Reviews

The English Concert/Bezuidenhout @ Wigmore Hall, London

23 February 2011


With one exception, this programme from The English Concert focused on music composed by Mozart in the 1780s. Within this theme there was an abundance of variation, as the evening included a symphony, two piano concertos, a further fantasia and the famous Serenade in G major, K525, or Eine kleine Nachtmusik.

The opening piece was the Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, K16 which one would be inclined to describe as naive had Mozart not composed it when he was eight or nine. The first movement has little in the way of thematic development but the orchestra brought out the rich textures and dynamic variations to the full.

The nocturnal Andante saw the violins shimmer and glisten, although there was also a good sense of rhythmic attack when this was required. The closing Presto was then joyously executed, making the opportunity to hear this symphony in the flesh most welcome.

Director Kristian Bezuidenhout then performed the Fantasia for solo pianoforte in C minor, K475. In tackling the most famous of Mozarts fantasias he demonstrated rare skill in combining elegance and refinement with boldness and clarity. Even as he drew out the most tumultuous phrases for all their worth his output remained brilliantly musical, and his phrasing was splendid. In the hushed hall, one really sensed that this lone voice was filling a cosmic void.

Somewhat surprisingly, the (relatively) weak moment of the evening was the performance of Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The orchestra was probably trying to do too much, and its attempts to highlight a number of contrasts marred its ability to capture an underlying unity to the piece. The variation striven for was only partially successful as the vibrant punch of the opening did not quite achieve the right match with the quieter, more subtle passages. The third and fourth movements felt more coherent though, meaning that the orchestras endeavours to produce a multi-faceted sound still produced dividends.

The jewel in the crown of the concert was undoubtedly the performances of two of Mozarts Piano Concertos, No. 11 in F major, K413 and particularly No. 12 in A major, K414. These were performed with the lidless piano facing the audience as Mozart himself would have played. Bezuidenhout also explained that placing the instrument at the centre of the orchestra achieved a more harmonious sound, there being a less adversarial relationship between the soloist and orchestra.

As Bezuidenhout stroked and teased out the precise sound that he wanted at every turn, in the Twelfths opening Allegro he seemed to gaze to the heavens, lost in wonder, time and space. The Andante then elicited the most lyrical, sweet, delicate playing before soloist and orchestra alike skipped and tripped through the third movements Rondeau.

An encore of the Andante from Mozarts Sonata in C major set the seal on this concert in which the orchestra was excellent, and the soloist out of this world.

This concert will be broadcast at 7.00pm on 24 March on Radio 3.

Further details of Wigmore Hall concerts can be found at wigmore-hall.org



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