Academy of St Thomas
MICHAEL DRAKE St Andrew's Hall, Norwich
> St Andrew's Hall, Norwich
The old hall has heard some momentous performances, but few could have been so thrilling as that of the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No.2 on Saturday evening.
Heard often in the more intimate atmosphere of the Old Granary, Piers Lane was the soloist in a powerful reading which always appeared relaxed, and had some strong orchestral backing from the Academy (leader, Paul Clarke) conducted in typically emphatic style by Christopher Adey.
Following an opening excitement, the Scherzo was just delightful, both in composition and execution, while the finale was one of testing virtuosity to end a magnificent display - brilliant showpiece music. Unfortunately it was followed by a totally unnecessary (for me) Chopin encore which took the mood away.
In Beethoven's Symphony No 4 the opening seemed almost alien to the composer but in the allegro section the orchestra showed their customary quality and consistency with fine contrasts. An intense Adagio preceded the final of joyful Beethoven in keeping with the entire programme.
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The programme started appropriately, with the premiere of Adey's arrangement of Variation on a Theme of Beethoven-Saint-Saens but the disappointing, half full audience did not help the concert hall lobby and called in to question whether such concerts should be played on a different evening.