Mariss Jansons' first EIF 2014 concert with the Amsterdam orchestra he has directed for a decade would have been a much more conventional affair in exactly reverse order, opening with Maurice Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe Suite No.2 and concluding with the spectacular finale of the remarkable First Symphony of Shostakovich.
That it worked in the order played - starting with the symphony - says something eloquent about the chemistry between the musicians and the conductor. Placed where it was, the Shostakovich seemed a much more subtle choice as a showpiece, although that is what it was.
Few symphonies are as dependent for their success on interchange between such a range of solo voices and the ensemble in the first few minutes. The wind principals of the orchestra were all outstanding throughout. The inscrutability of all Shostakovich is apparent in this student work, but the realisation of all that detail was clear in every gesture of Jansons' direction. You might guage exactly what is going on in the music just by watching him - and that transparency in performance produces transparently wonderful results.
But perhaps the highlight of the night, and possibly the most beautiful music I have heard all Festival, was Ravel's Piano Concerto in G with Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Thibaudet is surely the coolest pianist on the planet, equally at home with MacMillan as the repertoire of his native France, playing with Gallic passion and fluidity, but without apparently breaking sweat. What a team were on stage on Wednesday night.
Sponsored by Capital Document Solutions. This review appeared in later editions of yesterday's Herald.