Royal North­ern Sin­fo­nia/Lars Vogt

Sage, Gateshead

The Guardian - - JOURNAL - On BBC iPlayer un­til 16 April. Al­fred Hick­ling

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.

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