Royal Northern Sinfonia/Lars Vogt
Not many pianists would happily commit to performing two Beethoven concertos on the same evening – and even fewer who would be prepared to conduct them at the same time. But Lars Vogt’s recording cycle of the five piano concertos with the Royal Northern Sinfonia has gained such momentum that the sold-out concerts have become beg-for-a-ticket occasions.
This programme comprised concertos numbers three and two – actually the first in the sequence to be composed – and seemed to mark the point in Beethoven’s artistic journey in which he had paid off his debt to Haydn and Mozart and struck out on the open road of his favoured key of C minor.
The second concerto was shaped with the formal elegance of Beethoven’s immediate predecessors, although Vogt’s heavily syncopated style jabbed and pawed against the bar lines as if something wilder was impatient to be unleashed. And in the third concerto it escaped: Vogt mapped out the nocturnal slow movement with the predatory tread of something beautiful and dangerous.
The companion pieces were equally well executed. Haydn’s daringly static Symphony No 11 opened with a sparsely scored slow development that accounted for approximately half its length and sounded like an early experiment in minimalism. And Vogt had such fun with the irreverent homage that Prokofiev paid to the classical masters in his First Symphony that he could not resist throwing a lop-sided grin over his shoulder to cue a burst of audience laughter.