WHEN anticipating a piano concerto by a nineteenth century romantic composer, we would probably expect plenty of dramatic keyboard pounding and some equally heavy-duty orchestral accompaniment.
Chopin’s First Piano Concerto is therefore something of a surprise, for its rippling delicacy and orchestral restraint.
Perhaps the latter factor is not unexpected. Chopin was, after all, a renowned pianist, and would have wanted the orchestra in a subservient role. Even so, the almost minimalist nature of much of the orchestral scoring is notable, and probably presents particular technical challenges.
Conducted by Frédéric Chaslin, the Orchestra of Opera North displayed admirable restraint and clarity of texture during Saturday’s performance of the Chopin concerto, although the musicians made the most of their opportunities, when announcing themes at the beginning of movements, for example.
The soloist was the prize-winning Evgenia Rubinova, who obviously has the full range of technical accomplishments, but she displayed no pianistic bombast in her performance. Instead she brought out the elegance and the improvisatory qualities of Chopin’s writing. It was a subtle performance, all the more musical because there was no hint of showing off.
Having opened with Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, the concert concluded with Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony.Š
Composed by a Russian in 1944, it was hard not to detect the hand of history in this work, and it does have darker moments, such as the ominous tread of the low brass and woodwind in the Adagio.Š
But it is a lyrical, wonderfully scored work that does not carry too much historical baggage and the orchestra’s uplifting performance earned a rapturous response.Š