Sunday, 29 January 2012

Ligeti in Scotland - Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Juliet Williams writes from Edinburgh : Last night saw the second in this concert series, this time in Edinburgh's magnificent and acoustically excellent Usher Hall. Pierre-Laurent Aimard was sadly indisposed due to a hand injury and Tom Poster admirably stepped in to replace him at short notice, and gave a thoroughly enjoyable performance of the second Brahms concerto. Mr Poster was given a generous welcome by an appreciative audience. Poster is a winner of the Scottish International Piano Competition (in 2007) and has toured with the SCO and Robin Ticciati performing Ligeti's demanding and virtuostic concerto. There was clearly a good rapport between orchestra, soloist and conductor.

One of the pleasures of this happy and serene work is its almost chamber-music like equality between orchestra and soloist and here the orchestra gave a very good account of the work, again under Principal Conductor Robin Ticciati, especially the famous scherzo in the second movement. (Brahms said of this work that he had written, “quite a little tender piano concerto with quite a little tender scherzo”.)

The Ligeti piece featured in this second concert of the mini-series, "Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments*, dates from 1970 and represents a transition between the evolution of his first mature style in the 1960s, giving rise to the better- known large scale works such as *Lux Aeterna, *and the greater use of melody which came to characterise his later works, such as the *Hamburg Concerto* featured on Saturday and played so well then by Alec Frank-Gemmill.

This *Concerto* has a four-movement structure (like the Brahms concerto which followed it): an initial opening with layers of texture unfolding from the woodwind; a second movement which is very slow and a fourth movement which is very fast. These are separated by a remarkable third movement with the rubric “preciso e meccanico”, inspired by clocks and machines gradually going wrong. The same precision of approach demonstrated by the orchestra in the earlier perfomance on Saturday served them very well here, and produced an excellent performance of this very challenging work. Although there was a generally high standard of playing, commendation is deserved in particular by the pianist, who at one point has the instruction, 'hammering like a madman', and the trombone, which has a strident melody bursting from the delicate sound textures hitherto to conclude the first movement.

This ambitious programming and consistently high standard of performance across a very varied repertoire is making the SCO an exciting ensemble to follow. More about the Scottish Chamber Orchestra here - their rare appearances iin London are greatly appreciated. For more on the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's Ligeti season please see HERE,

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