Thoughtful and unusual concert

Britten Sinfonia / Aimard, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 14 A thoughtful, if unusual example of programme planning saw less frequently performed works by popular composers frame a series of works by equally established, but more challenging names.

Britten Sinfonia / Aimard, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 14

A thoughtful, if unusual example of programme planning saw less frequently performed works by popular composers frame a series of works by equally established, but more challenging names. The concert opened with the Britten Sinfonia under Pierre-Laurent Aimard playing Haydn's early symphony no 22, often known as The Philosopher. The contemplative atmosphere is set in the unusual adagio opening movement where the spaced arpeggios of the horns set a consideration of the big issues under way. Two cor anglais as the only other wind instruments added their own, striking, touch of introspection. Humour and wit, however, can never be kept at bay in Haydn and they kept appearing in this delightful, fascinating and beautifully played symphony.

Aimard then introduced an additional work - Schoenberg's six piano pieces op19 - to begin the 'difficult' part of the evening featuring, in addition, Kurtag, Webern and Ives. Schoenberg's vivid imagination, particularly his use of string tremolos created a febrile atmosphere, acutely attuned to the preoccupations of early twentieth century Vienna. In contrast, the five movements by Webern seemed to take condensation and reduction into areas where emotional (as opposed to intellectual) satisfaction becomes harder to find.

The rapt attention and atmosphere created by the two pieces of Gyorgy Kurtag with their compelling separation of string groups and the poised trumpet questioning of Ives' The Unanswered Question concluded a first half of sustained musical thought and innovation by some of the sharpest musical minds and delivered with engagement and aplomb.


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Mozart's Coronation Piano Concerto has had a poor press over the years and there was no escaping the feeling that he had written better ones despite the pleasure of an exemplary and committed performance by Aimard and the hugely impressive Britten Sinfonia.

Gareth Jones

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