Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Anderszewski

City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

CONCERTS without a conductor are not a novelty for the SCO, although more usually seen by its rural audience in smaller halls. This one, with Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski directing Haydn and Schumann from the keyboard and violinist Alexander Janiczek leading the opening Mozart from the front, was part of a season in which that experience will be much more usual for the city-centre faithful.

From the start of the “Linz” Symphony No 36, in which Mozart made the very best of his resources with a work that gives rare prominence to the bassoons - Gretha Tuls and Alison Green - it was clear that the compact ensemble of musicians was having fun. It is a work that, in its finale especially, prefigures the flowering of the development of the genre to be heard in the composer’s final four symphonies, and it was in the slow movement that Janiczek was most clearly exercising control.

With his back to the audience and the lid removed from the Steinway, Anderszewski was surrounded by the players for Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D. Of course it was unlike any instrument the composer would have known, and initially seemed on the loud side, however carefully the soloist calibrated the balance with the orchestra. The song-like central Adagio sounded startlingly modern, however, as did the exchange of chords between keyboard and strings in the closing Rondo.

For the second-half concerto, the configuration made eminent sense, even if the project still remained a bold one. The concluding Allegro vivace, with which Robert Schumann completed the Phantasie in A Minor he had composed for Clara four years earlier, contains music where the soloist is counting a rhythm quite different from that of the ensemble. It is a challenge for any conductor, but playing the work without podium guidance is rare, and well-deserving of applause. To most ears, however, the real treat is the gorgeous simple tune that Schumann found in the notes from the letters in her name and presented first to his fiancée and then amplified for his wife.