Orchestral storytelling and emotional extremes were the drivers in Saturday’s rewarding QSO and Piers Lane – 40 Years. Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini was inspired by Dante’s tragic tale of infidelity and cruel retribution. The flamboyant and authoritative Mexican conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke made the audience chuckle when he introduced the Tchaikovsky and announced that “Francesca was very very naughty and got tossed into the inferno because of it.”
The vivid performance that followed was cinematic and notably the engaged woodwind sang out, their tone sailing distinctively above the orchestra to the front of the sound stage. The impressive lower strings were very much on song. Diemecke commanded satisfying moments of repose.
The concert’s emotional opposites resided in Moskowski’s uplifting exhilarating Piano Concerto No 1 in E Major and Dvořák’s darkly brooding Seventh Symphony.
Piers Lane, a self-confessed champion of neglected music, was in his element as soloist for the Moskowski. This work enjoyed plenty of attention in the composer’s heyday, but for decades it gathered dust until Lane, especially, gave it pride of place in his repertoire and restored its status as a viable concerto.
Lane’s fingers travelled at the speed of light, flew up and down the keys, thundered in the double octaves and propelled the music’s dazzling rapid flurries and spectacular pianism in style. Lane’s brilliance was charged by insightful scholarship and an affinity with Moskowski’s breezy romantic syntax, which bears the imprint of Rachmaninov and other composers from the Romantic period who brokered showy pianism.
Lane’s phenomenal technicality was powered by acute rhythmical precision and emphatic light and shade. He mined the playfulness, cherished the tunefulness and not only fired his own contribution but seemed to shepherd the orchestra’s too. Diemecke was respectful and gave Lane space and artistic licence.
If the concerto scaled exuberant reaches, Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony, regarded as the best of the composer’s symphonies if not the most popular, plumbed emotional depths.
As for Diemecke, a charismatic Mel Brooks look-a-like who stamps his feet, has the macho demeanor of a bull fighter and scissors the air with his hands before addressing the audience, his definitive shining moment
in this enjoyable programme resided in the triumphant shaping of the more extensively rehearsed Dvořák.
Highlighting the universal themes and the confessional moments convincingly, he juggled these oppositional elements and successfully framed the Slavic composer’s grand architecture. He pushed the orchestra to its limits, inspired confidence and drew the best from individual players and sections. The French horns and brass were exceptional.