Royal Northern Sinfonia. Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham. November 30 2021. 5*****. William Ruff



Royal Northern Sinfonia


November 30 2021


Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham




Review: William Ruff



An evening of musical magic


I hope pianist Louis Schwizgebel has his fingers properly insured – because they’re clearly very precious.  Keyboard virtuosos are often called magicians, of course, but Louis really does list ‘magic’ as one of his hobbies, as well as advanced origami.  And the digital dexterity he displayed on Tuesday evening was jaw-dropping.


Saint-Saens’ 2nd Piano Concerto is not for shrinking violets.  It is hugely extrovert and never lets the soloist off the hook.  There’s no slow movement to allow recovery and it demands every ounce of musical energy, from the monumental opening to the wild dance with which it concludes.  It’s also full of memorable tunes as it runs the whole gamut of emotions.  Louis Schwizgebel is a remarkable, multi-award-winning artist whose ability to hurl fistfuls of notes at the audience was accompanied by immense charm and an ability to capture the music’s drama and wit, elegance and fire.  The audience roared their approval and brought him back for an encore.


The rest of the programme looked a tad predictable, with two mainstays of the concert repertoire: Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and Mozart’s 40th.  However, both works showed just what is possible when a top-class ensemble is well-rehearsed and when even the most familiar music is re-thought.  It was clear from the opening of the Schubert that something special was happening.


The opening, brooding bars were particularly dark and ominous, demonstrating that you don’t need huge forces to make a big impact; and the following rippling pattern of notes were played by the violins at a mere whisper, making the ears work hard and adding a sense of anxiety to an already sombre mood.  The attention to detail was typical of the whole performance.


And much the same was true of the Mozart: speeds, phrasing, rhythms were all carefully thought through.  The opening is too often taken too slowly by conductors but the RNS’s Dinis Sousa opted for bracing energy – and it worked, as did his insistence on transparent textures and razor-sharp precision throughout.   No wonder his orchestra gave him a round of applause at the end.


Royal Northern Sinfonia

Dinis Sousa                 Conductor

Louis Schwizgebel     Piano

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