The trouble with being a soloist of Alfred Brendel's stature is that every appearance on the concert platform becomes a sort of test - a challenge to live up to one's own reputation, in a process almost akin to leaping through hoops. This phenomenon can sometimes get in the way of the music. Luckily, on Monday, it didn't. A capacity audience packed the Usher Hall (Edinburgh loves its big stars) to see if Brendel would pass the test - which he did, effortlessly, by the simple expedient, as ever, of ignoring any temptation to "perform" (in the worst sense) and just being his inimitable self - no more, and certainly no less. Which meant a musical treat of the highest order, in his performance of two Mozart piano concertos - No 20, in D minor, and No 24, in C minor.

In an unusual three-part programme, the two piano concertos were framed by the great triptych of Mozart's last three symphonies. The shadow that falls at certain moments in these rich, abundant works, only to be dispersed by the unstoppable flow of new, vigorous ideas, serves to indicate Mozart's ability to transmute the mundane harassments of his day-to-day existence, at this stage in his life, into the tragic note of high art.

Sir Charles Mackerras inspired the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to a crisp, energetic performance of the 39th Symphony, with an extra bite provided by the excellently played natural horns and trumpets. Disarming simplicity at the start of the slow movement contrasted with real passion in the later dramatic outbursts, and it was nice to hear a minuet that was brisk and really dance-like. A similar energy informed the Symphony No 40, with those horns stabbing away in the texture and a most emphatic quality in the sturdy octave figures of the finale; again there was a wildness, a touch almost of the Hungarian rhapsody, about the appoggiature on the beat in another finale theme. And there was no excessive reverence in the rendition of Mozart's last, great "Jupiter" Symphony; this time the minuet had a definite one-in-a-bar swing to it, the muted violins were curiously eerie in the slow movement, but it was in the last, extraordinary outburst of musical invention in the finale that Mackerras paid the finest tribute to the composer's genius, making his last symphonic inspiration blaze out in a valedictory, but also tremendously exciting, burst of glory.

In the D minor Concerto, as in the C minor, Brendel's playing had a characteristic, contained, inward quality about it; his respect for the "space between the notes" exemplified by a reluctance to linger on the keyboard a split second longer than necessary. In the former, his chaste piano line contrasted delightfully with the sterner trumpets and drums, and although some people accuse Brendel of being "too romantic" for Mozart, it's difficult to imagine how one could be anything else in the luscious theme of this work's slow movement. While evidently aware of the darker, tragic side of the music, and bringing out its Beethovenian quality in the sudden dramatic flourishes and cadenzas of No 24, it was the life-affirming quality of Mozart, captured so marvellously in the defiantly carefree triple-time ending of this concerto, that Brendel and Mackerras chose to celebrate to the full. Laurence Hughes

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