Photo, Mark Allan

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

An atmospheric account of the Overture to Der Freischütz (Weber condensing his opera into ten minutes of orchestral theatre) got the concert off to a suggestive and dramatic start (forest-legend horns, romantic clarinet); musically articulate, too, the BFO in fine form, Iván Fischer leaning into the ensemble he co-founded forty years ago. A smudgy first entry from András Schiff didn’t bode well for Schumann’s Piano Concerto, although, occasional awkwardness aside, his was a clear-sighted reading of the solo part, the antithesis of indulgence, with flowing tempos (including through a cumulative cadenza), if with greater character from woodwinds, also the rapturous cellos in the ‘Intermezzo’. The most-measured tempo informed the Finale, and if Schiff’s fingers weren’t always the most easeful, the performance throughout displayed the close collaboration between the musicians, Schiff ‘first among equals’, and he went on to accompany singing members of the BFO in one of Brahms’s Gypsy Songs, and then offered an excerpt from Schumann’s Album for the Young. Following the interval, Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony, nicely scenic during the introduction, the exposition (not repeated) gently paced and related to the opening, woodwinds to the fore, with greater vitality then coming into play if not continuing into the Scherzo, which could have sprinted more, followed by a slow movement lovingly shaped – expressing contentment as well as awe at the landscape – rounded by a rhythmically adroit Finale that became embroiled in mist before re-emerging in majesty. Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance Opus 72/1 (No.9), unhurried yet spirited, ended the evening.