Classical Music

Review of Concerto Budapest with Angela Hewitt

Review of Concerto Budapest with Angela Hewitt



Angela Hewitt (cr Fotograf Ole Christiansen)

Touring international orchestras are back,
thanks to the mighty IMG, and the Bridgewater Hall mustered a small but very
enthusiastic audience to welcome Concerto Budapest (formerly the Hungarian
Symphony Orchestra) and its chief conductor and artistic director, András
Keller, along with Angela Hewitt, the peerless pianist who is always a draw in
her own right.

The programme offered to Manchester
(slightly different from other venues so far on the tour) had two pieces full
of folksong and dance and two mainstream classical ones.

Top of the menu was Kodály’s Dances of
– played for the first time on the tour but no doubt
bread-and-butter to these musicians back home. Their string tone is rightly
something to be proud of, and the eight celli made a superb start to the piece
(the following string playing wasn’t as clean and precise as the Bridgewater
Hall acoustic really needs, but it takes a little time to adjust to it – there’s
an awful lot of side-to-side resonance in this hall). The music has something
of the sound of traditional ‘gypsy’ bands in it, and by the fast bit near the end
there were grins all round – they were enjoying doing it.

Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody no. 1,
played after the interval, had much of the same feel to it (and gave the
percussionists of the orchestra something to do: their two harps and a most
self-effacing pianissimo triangle made their delicate contribution).

But before that there was Angela Hewitt. You
could hardly get more mainstream than Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 23 in
A major (K488), and she plays it with good old-fashioned well-pedalled
smoothness and grace. The orchestra, too, was suavity personified, and its
principal bassoon had his best vibrato to show off, along with the principal
oboe’s most expressive style, in the second and final movements.

Angela Hewitt’s playing is beautifully
proportioned and finely calculated. Mozart’s (his own) first movement cadenza
brought a flash of drama to the narrative … and I loved the way (being a
director-from-the-keyboard herself on other occasions) she conducted the
players back into action herself at the recapitulation. She played the gloriously
elegiac central Adagio una corda but with some surprise emphases to
stimulate the imagination.

To remind us of her expertise in
interpreting baroque keyboard music for the modern piano, she returned with an
encore in the shape of a Scarlatti sonata.

Last there was Beethoven’s Fifth. Strings
were slightly reduced for this (they had been cut right down for Mozart), but
there were modern timpani. There was plenty of energetic articulation in the
opening movement, and intriguing crescendos on held notes from the wind
players. The speeds of the remainder were mainly brisk, though sometimes
variable in a nicely Romantic way, and the horns and trumpets (three of the
latter, with shared duties on the top line, to keep their sound brightly
dominating everything else) made a powerful contribution.


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