Bruckner returns to the Lighthouse

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9

revsbsopiemontesiMOZART’s cycle of piano concertos sees the composer exploring a very wide variety of moods. His final concerto, No. 27, is Mozart at his most intimate, delicate and wistful. Orchestrated without timpani, trumpets or clarinets, the wind section consists of a flute and two each of oboes, bassoons and horns. Karabits here presented the work with a small string section (6 first violins, 5 second, 4 violas, 3 cellos and a single double bass), so the overall sound had a sparse chamber-music feel which was well suited to Piemontesi’s sensitive and nuanced playing. Karabits frequently thinned the texture still further by restricting the strings to just the eight front-desk players and the bass. The resulting atmosphere was a revelation, with a rapt concentration in the intimate communication of conductor, soloist and orchestra. Piemontesi, a Swiss-Italian pianist in his early 30s, scaled down the Steinway’s sound to a point where it blended appropriately with the delicate orchestral sound. In his encore, he unleashed a much richer and more resonant set of sonorities from the instrument in Debussy’s impressionistic prelude La cathédrale engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral).

After the interval, the intimacy of the Mozart gave way to the massed ranks assembled for Bruckner’s 9th. It is a few years since the BSO last programmed a Bruckner symphony, but on this form it is obvious that absence has made the heart grow fonder. Bruckner’s sound relies heavily on brass, the usual instruments augmented by Wagner tubas, which are a kind of cross between French Horns and Tubas. They combine with the trombones to give Bruckner’s visionary climaxes an immense richness, weight and dignity. Bruckner worked on his 9th symphony for nine years but left it unfinished. Dedicated simply to God, the three movements (slow – fast – slow) form a fully-satisfying work, without any feeling of incompleteness. Stretching well over an hour, this is profound, meditative music of visionary power, in which it is easy to loose the way. But Karabits steered the mighty ship of the near-100 strong orchestra securely, differentiating the mighty and powerful climaxes before bringing the work to a safe harbour in the calm final pages.

Karabits interrupted the rapturous applause to remind the audience to book now for the BSO’s much-anticipated two-day cycle of the Brahms symphonies, 1 and 2 on May 7th and 3 and 4 on May 8th. Sound advice indeed: the BSO are on terrific form at the moment richly deserve the support of their fortunate host community!

Paul Jordan

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