Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Queens Hall, Edinburgh

Hazel Rowland

four stars

THE culmination of pianist Ll?r Williams’s Beethoven cycle with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra also included varied Viennese delights. Mozart’s Overture for his opera La clemenza di Tito made for an energetic start, and the players clearly enjoyed its quick changes in mood. The opening theme was majestic, while the flutes in particular relished the sweetness of the more melodious moments.

Standing up from his position as leader, violinist Alexander Janiczek took on the role of both soloist and conductor for Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 that followed. Janiczek was a far from egoistic soloist, but the beauty of his playing produced in a captivating performance even if the finale seemed somewhat restrained.

After the lightness of Mozart, the SCO switched seamlessly into the searing beauty of Berg’s Lyric Suite. Under Janiczek’s direction, the orchestra flawlessly navigated the concentrated emotions in Berg’s score, sometimes sounding as though they could hardly bear its intensity, and at others as if they were barely keeping everything together. An underlying sinister unease was maintained throughout. Even quiet moments sizzled with angst.

Ll?r Williams also took on both soloist and conductor roles in Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto. Though Beethoven makes considerable demands on the pianist, moving from the piano to direction seems natural to Williams. This was matched by his playing, which remained smooth and at ease. Clearly, Williams is incredibly comfortable with the piano part, but his understated style perhaps meant that we lost some virtuosic thrills. The SCO remained on top form, providing a rewarding close to a dynamic programme.