HHH

SHALL we start with the positive? Richard Egarr always gives value for money, whether he is playing keyboards, conducting, talking, or doing all three at more or less the same time: nobody who witnessed it will ever forget, a few years back, his impassioned outburst about Bach's Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, followed by a furious, blistering performance of the piece in the Recital Room of the City Hall.

And on Friday night, in what has become a regular visit to the SCO, he gave that value again in a tight performance of Beethoven's Prometheus Overture and a sparkling, wonderfully-coloured and characterised performance of Schubert's Sixth Symphony, one of those SCO performances where the musicians (and Egarr) just breathe new and ever-more stylish life into the music.

Loading article content

However, when it comes to Jan Ladislav Dussek's 1801 G minor Piano Concerto, I have to take a different view from the programme note writer, who bigged up the Czech composer, and Egarr, who directed the performance from the keyboard and described the piece as "Romantic and steamy".

No it wasn't. To my ears and mind it was a piece by a composer, stumbling about in a new-found land, coming up with or across wave upon wave of new ideas, unexpected harmonic colourings, unprecedented orchestral effects, and myriad new combinations and contrasts of dramatic projection. But he didn't know what to do with them. There was no structuring, organisation or development. It was an assemblage, no more, no less. It lacked inevitability and any kind of coherence or cohesiveness.

Actually, I thought it was a bit ramshackle and that in consigning Dussek to a footnote, history had done the right thing.