A MAGICAL ignition occurred on Thursday night at the BBC SSO's concert with conductor Andrew Manze, pianist Steven Osborne, baritone Mark Stone, soprano Elizabeth Watts and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus. Whatever it was, the place was electric; and that touched everything in the programme: the music lit up and so did the performers; and anyone who could have resisted it had to be soulless.
What caused the ignition? Was it the fact that it was the closing concert of the SSO season? Or that it was a sell-out, with a capacity house? Was it the presence of Steven Osborne, clearly having the time of his life? Or the rare outing for Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony, in an awesomely-spacious performance by Manze, completing the SSO's cycle? Or the presence of the mighty Edinburgh Festival Chorus? Probably all of these, with an infectious buzz in the house thrown in for good measure.
I do know this: all these musicians, so familiar in their individual and collective guises, were absolutely flying on Thursday. Everyone seemed to be playing and singing spontaneously, and at white heat. The purity and clarity of the two solo singers was blinding in its brilliance, while the chorus was mind-blowing in its sonority and articulation.
And Osborne was almost incredible in Beethoven's First Piano Concerto. Forget about the oft-stated Mozart influence: every note of this was pure Beethoven, from the wit, strength, playfulness and hilarity, to the heart-stopping beauty of the slow movement and the explosive plunge from the first cadenza of the concerto into the recapitulation. It was one of the most thrilling performances I have heard from Osborne. What a night for all.