The concert began with Beethoven’s rousing Overture, Coriolan, which musically charts the raging emotions of Coriolanus, the fifth century Roman general, and his subsequent downfall. Andrew Manze was the guest conductor and his boundless energy was infectious – I have never seen the musicians playing with such animation – and he controlled the orchestra in an exemplary way, the timings were superb. It was a great introduction to the evening.
The Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi was the soloist in the two Mozart piano concertos on the programme. Mozart wrote a phenomenal number of piano concertos – twenty-seven in total. Other renowned composers have written only five at the most. Performing in a composed manner, Piemontesti’s intonation was superb. It requires a mastery of touch to elicit such sweetness from Mozart’s simple one note melodies, but he achieved this to perfection.
Beethoven’s Overture Prometheus, composed in 1801, was next on the programme. Beethoven was commissioned to write the music for ‘The Creatures of Prometheus’ ballet to be performed in front of one of the most prestigious audiences in Europe. It was the only ballet he ever wrote and the Overture, which became extremely popular and was performed twenty-eight times soon after its premiere, is a challenge for the string section to play particularly in the Allegro section which is suggestive of Prometheus fleeing from heaven after stealing from the Gods. It was a tour de force performance on the part of the musicians.
Piemontesti concluded the programme by playing Mozart’s unfamiliar 26th piano concerto. His playing was sublime, highlighting as he did Mozart’s unique style of composition with its rapid runs and exquisite simple melodies. Indeed there were times during the performance one got the impression Piemontest was improvising, particularly in the cadenza which when he concluded it seemed to almost catch Manze unawares. Overall, it was a superb performance where the pianist and musicians created a marvellous ensemble. As an encore, we were again treated to the delights of Piemontesti’s musical talents when he played an exquisite rendition of one of Mendelssohn’s ‘Song without Words.’
Friday 5 February: Glasgow City Halls: 7.30pm.