Mostly Mozart, Barbican, London

Compelling serenity

Review,Adrian Jack
Monday 20 January 2014 04:53
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The Mostly Mozart series at the Barbican boasts some hot tickets among its soloists, and Friday's concert had Piotr Anderszewski in the G major Piano Concerto, K453, and Isabelle Faust in the Fifth Violin Concerto ("Turkish"). Presumably the latter was put in Part Two because the piano could easily be moved to one side during the interval, but it meant that the finer concerto came earlier and, consequently, interest declined afterwards.

Anderszewski recently released a CD of two other Mozart concertos (K467 and K491) in which he directed from the keyboard. These performances are full of interesting and beautiful things, if a bit contrived: what is undeniable in them is the attention given to the orchestra, whose contribution is intensely detailed.

On Friday, confined to the solo role, Anderszewski appeared as Orpheus taming wild beasts, shaming the Academy of St Martin's by the exquisite delicacy of his playing. Modern woodwind are terribly loud and there was a danger that the piano would be drowned out, yet Anderszewski's serenity was so compelling, his simplicity so beguiling, it seemed right that he stood by his conception and refused to impose his authority by force.

Not that there were no strong moments, for there were, and all the more significant for being rare. It was almost the reverse of Louis Lortie's approach with this orchestra a week earlier, and far more effective.

Isabelle Faust is a young violinist of cool poise and pure style; there's a certain sense of stillness at the centre of her playing, though the first movement of the "Turkish" Concerto might have been just plain slow. Whatever does Mozart's marking of "Allegro aperto" mean? Surely not humdrum. Presumably, Faust agreed to the tempo Emmanuel Krivine set. Her seamless legato and beautiful silvery tone in the middle movement were slightly at the expense of firm rhythmic sense – the music seemed to drift like a kite – but the finale, with its exotic "Turkish" section in the middle, was neatly turned.

These concerts, "recommended by Classic FM", are obviously geared to audiences that want to hear a lot of Mozart without too much fuss about who plays it or how. The Academy could probably play most of the music in their sleep, but though Mozart apparently wrote the Linz Symphony within five days (and one wonders if his boast was strictly honest), they needn't have dashed it off so automatically. It gives professionalism a bad name.

Mostly Mozart continues to 3 Aug (020-7638 8891)

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