Today is April 1st, but there are no April Fool surprises at the Queen’s Hall tonight. Instead, we have the usual refined performance from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of the highly respected Belgian conductor, Phillipe Herreweghe.
The concert begins with a smaller, strings-only SCO, playing two of the movements from Bach’s The Art of Fugue. They are short, sweet and leave you wondering why only two? Why not four?
The orchestra is then augmented by its wind and brass sections, to accompany the fine young German pianist, Martin Helmchen, in Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Mendelssohn wrote this concerto while on honeymoon in Strasbourg. It is a lively, energetic and melodic work, vivaciously played by Helmchen, who certainly looks the part of the virtuoso pianist as well as sounding it. He is very well received by the Queen’s Hall audience, and gives a short Bach encore.
The concert concludes with a rather gloomier work, Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C. Schumann wrote this when he was recovering from a nervous breakdown, and his wife, Clara, was also unwell at the time: he talks of ‘the hypochondria of a married couple’! Even Schumann noted it was not an easy Symphony to either listen to, or to conduct, writing of the first movement, ‘it is filled with struggle, and is very capricious and obstinate in character’. However, under Herreweghe’s sensitive baton, the SCO makes you want to listen to it.
Tonight’s concert certainly serves as a reminder that listening to live music is still far better than listening to it on the radio, and indeed that the SCO never gives a bad concert.