Aimard's deeply satisfying performance

Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Aimard, Snape Maltings, June 27 Haydn's Farewell Symphony, Stockhausen's Kontra-Punkte and Beethoven's Emperor Concerto are typical and successful creations of their composers but conventional wisdom might not have them comprising a single concert.

Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Aimard, Snape Maltings, June 27

Haydn's Farewell Symphony, Stockhausen's Kontra-Punkte and Beethoven's Emperor Concerto are typical and successful creations of their composers but conventional wisdom might not have them comprising a single concert. Then again, none of the composers were great respecters of conventional wisdom and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, to judge from his first season at Aldeburgh, is willing to programme a radical concert or two.

The similarity in the endings of the Farewell and Kontra-Punkte (the ensemble in both is gradually whittled down to virtual singularity) is interesting and worth pursuing, the Emperor perhaps a less obvious companion. In the last resort, however, the question is 'did it work in the concert hall?' Very largely, yes.

The polished and committed players of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra were making their second appearance and playing their third Haydn Symphony in as many days.


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The first two movements of the Farewell Symphony were smoothly executed, somewhat too smoothly in fact and the real Haydn rather went missing. The minuet was more authentic and the finale was nicely engineered down to the final two players, the remainder gathered at the back of the stage.

Aimard's discussion of Stockhausen's seminal work contained some illuminating points and certainly aided my passage through this sometimes disconcerting score which still has the power to provoke mutterings from an audience as well as a celebrated dismissal from Thomas Beecham.

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No such difficulties with the Emperor - a full-on chord of E flat sent Aimard on his way in a performance that did not flinch from the grand gestures but also emphasised those moments of subtlety and refinement that often go for nothing.

The long opening ritornello was prised open to reveal more inner part interplay than is often heard and the inner string movements at the opening of the Adagio came through to great effect.

Aimard's position, facing the orchestra and almost in amongst the players, created a sense of near chamber music and avoided the worst of the piano versus orchestra battle that a conventional layout can produce.

The orchestra played with the greatest precision and the drum rhythm at the end of the finale came over as clearly as I have ever heard. Aimard's fluent technique and feel for the warmth as well as the strength of the work made for a deeply satisfying performance.

Gareth Jones

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