Camerata Ireland / Douglas, Cadogan Hall, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

The idea behind the Camerata, formed in 1999, was set in motion by the pianist Barry Douglas. Best available musicians from Ireland and the Irish diaspora come together in a chamber orchestra that, as well as touring elsewhere, takes its main annual concert to Dublin, London and Paris. Douglas is artistic director, and concertos that he can direct from the keyboard are a mainstay - this time, a whole programme of Mozart.

These national ambassadors aren't all as young as the orchestra's mission statement proposes, but they make a fine, seasoned sound. Strings shone straight away in Piano Concerto No 12, the violins particularly vigorous and sweet in an unashamed mainstream style. Wind instruments, given a relatively anonymous role in this work, emerged later to equal them in spirit and to contribute much to the orchestra's character.

Here and in No 27 the playing balanced lyrical feeling and single-minded momentum with phrasing carefully matched between solo and orchestra. Douglas was able to get the orchestra to do what he exemplified in his own performance. In the bright Cadogan Hall acoustic, a big Steinway at the front of the platform with the lid up projects its tone outwards to an alarmingly live degree. It sounded almost amplified, and any unevenness in the playing would have been mercilessly exposed. Virtually none was detectable.

Imbalances between piano and orchestra were also the exception. It was inevitable that a few of Mozart's sparkling keyboard forays would cover the woodwind exchanges that they were meant to accompany, but most of the time everybody was listening well, and Mozart's sensuously intertwined lines gave as much pleasure to the listeners as they must have done to the composer - and did to the players.

Early on in No 27, Douglas veered towards a rather elegiac tone, as though interpreting by the hindsight that this was Mozart's last piano concerto before his concert career collapsed. For No 25 the manner was by turns poetic and fiery, responding to the forceful traits that would have an impact on Beethoven.

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