SCO: Piano Concerto

My scepticism is swept away in the first chord of Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande Suite (1898) that opens the four piece concert at Usher Hall. First written for Maeterlinck’s play of the same name, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra performs the four movements immaculately. The first movement is the most moving, enthralling you immediately and sweeping you away from the trou-bles of your own world into one totally apart from anything that seems to matter.

In our second row seats (£5 for students) we can truly get up close and personal with Robin Ticciati, the conductor, whose energy and synchronicity with each of the scores is obvious. He himself is an instrument within the orchestra, or at least his nose is: his incessant heavy breathing is at first a distraction but quickly becomes part of the passion of the music. Ticciati is fantastic, almost dancing along to the glorious music.

The star of the show, however, is Mitsuko Uchida, the ethereal and absolutely charming pianist. She performs Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G (1931), a slow movement that is modelled on a piece by Mozart.

Uchida’s strong Viennese classical repertoire helps to inform the performance of the jazz inspired concerto. It’s a very interesting piece; sultry jazz intertwined with modernist melancholy and a hint of military percussion. Each movement has its own charm, the first holds a deep contrast between the smooth strings and the unstable piano. The second glitters with staccato strings and tinkling piano — utterly enthralling. The third and last movement, is a sort of ‘Uptown Funk’ Ravel-style; train-like rhythm and twisting woodwind with a jazzy undertone.

The modernism of the piece is clear through its cubist composition — an image of contemporary life: uncertain, jazzy, and deservedly poignant.

Uchida is fabulous, her emotive face, though half hidden by the piano itself, is exquisitely in tune with the piece. Following her performance she returns to the stage four times to bow and then succeeds in giving an incredible encore of a Mozart piano piece.

The second half is equally as interesting, but not quite up to the standard of the first. Boulez’s Mémoriale (…explosante-fixe…Originel) (1985/1993), is not to my taste. Consisting of a lead flutist and a small selection of strings, it has staccato and impressive flute trills followed by more staccato and more trills. Whilst short, it just does not have the same captivating beauty of the previous pieces.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 in D, ‘The Clock’ (1794), is the concluding piece. It is a wonderful score, the four movements working well, the third the most memorable with its delicate flute and clarity. Ticciati is the stand out performer within the symphony, his passionate facial expressions and movements encapsulating the delightful nature of the piece.

The entire concert is played beautifully, if you have a spare fiver invest it at the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s concert programme at Usher Hall. The whole experience is incredibly relaxing — even more so than watching a whole series on Netflix, you will be lost in the music within seconds. I would recommend the Beethoven Violin Concerto on 5 March.

 

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