An all-Beethoven affair

The Royal Northern Sinfonia’s programme for the Lakeland Sinfonia’s most recent concert was an all-Beethoven affair: The Creatures of Prometheus Overture, the 4th Piano Concerto and the 4th Symphony. The director and pianist was Lars Vogt, the Sinfonia’s Music Director.

During the pre-concert talk, throughout which ideas were floated relating to Beethoven – the man and his music, Vogt impressed as a deep-thinking, sensitive musician who loved music, his profession and life. He was of the opinion that Beethoven knew he was a great composer and
that, even in his earliest works, he had something different to offer: ‘Listen to me; I am here’.
Vogt’s sentiments were mirrored in each performance. We have long recognised the glory of the Royal Northern Sinfonia but, with its Director at the helm, it was projected to even greater heights of excellence. It was significant that, as the final plaudits rang out, the players themselves enthusiastically participated in the celebrations.

From the Overture’s opening dynamism through to the flamboyant end of the Symphony there was ever-present sense of energy and purpose. The players, always on the edges of their seats, responded magnificently to Vogt’s wishes for the unexpected, explosive outbursts and the immediate, hushed pianissimos (during which the audience held its collective breath).

They responded, too, to his phrasing – often attractively unusual, but precise in its preparation, beautiful in its unfolding, with no detail overlooked and its character (be it joyous, morose, fiery or gentle) faithfully portrayed. Their discipline and virtuosity was awe-inspiring and richly deserving of the final individual congratulations.

That Vogt is a pianist of international standing was apparent throughout his reading of the Concerto. Rarely do we hear such sophisticated musicianship and magical pianism – effortless, dexterous, liquid passage work and contrasting power; the cadenzas were ravishing and the rapport with his colleagues was meticulous. It was a privilege to witness such a performance.

The encore, Elgar’s Chanson de Matin, was a welcome surprise and sent
us happily (if a little apprehensively) out into the snow!

Brian Paynes