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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto [30:24]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
The Fair Melusine: Overture (1835 version) [10:44]
Piano Concerto No. 1 [19:47]
Ingrid Fliter (piano)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Antonio Méndez
rec. RSNO Centre, Glasgow, 3-6 December 2015

Ingrid Fliter’s work with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra has impressed me consistently, both in the concert hall and on disc. Theirs is a partnership that really works, and this disc is continued proof that it is worthy of celebration.

This repertoire is meat-and-potatoes to the SCO, and they take to it like ducks to water. The orchestral sound is a little more lean than you might get from a modern symphony orchestra, but they turn this into a virtue, with juicy winds, wiry strings and a great sense of energy. To give only one example from the Schumann concerto, there is something quite unique about the open, transparent way the violas and cellos introduce the counter theme of the slow movement, without a hint of showing off or wallowing, but merely revelling in the simplicity of the line. That’s also, I’m sure, thanks to the conductor. Antonio Méndez’s 2016 concert with the orchestra (in very different repertoire) was one of the concerts I have most enjoyed this year, and he brings his energy and forensic musical vision to the old Schumann war horse in a way that makes it sound freshly minted. If he brings great momentum to the performance then Fliter brings a class all of her own, dancing over the keyboard like a ballerina. The dreamy central section of the first movement is really delightful, with gorgeous wind solos, and the piano weaving in and out of the orchestral texture with consummate skill. The first movement cadenza is played with beautiful poetry and nuance, and the finale is just as light on its feet with wonderful bounce and great energetic sweep. There is a spiralling sense of the dance about it, and I enjoyed the pleasing thwack of the natural timpani in the final drumroll

Even finer, however, is the less familiar Mendelssohn concerto, which has tremendous bounce to the fiery opening, full of vigour and excitement. There is wonderful energy and busyness that really makes you sit up and take notice, but there then comes such wonderful sweetness to the slow movement, and the same quality of the of the violas and cellos as you get in the slow movement of the Schumann; namely a beautiful simplicity that allows the music to unfold perfectly naturally. The finale has the same tripping quality to it as the finale of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and Fliter glides nimbly over the keyboard, seeming barely to stroke the keys as she skits on to the next phrase.

The Fair Melusine overture, another SCO favourite, makes for a generous bonus with its mellifluous winds and airy sound, the slightly wiry strings adding to the drama of the minor-key passages. In short, a lovely release.

Simon Thompson



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