On paper, the pairing of Stravinsky and Beethoven suggested a stimulating juxtaposition of style and genre. For Martin Leigh and the Birmingham Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble of laudable ambition, however, it was more about balance and confidence.
They addressed the challenges competently enough, though not with complete success. Stravinsky’s Suite No. 1 certainly took time to get going and needed more positive upper strings; his Octet on the other hand overcame its initial tentativeness more quickly and ended very snappily.
But in Beethoven’s Third and Fourth Piano Concertos, the inconsistencies were more apparent. Martin Roscoe’s vitality, beautifully sculptured tone and varied articulation contrasted sharply with the orchestra’s somewhat pallid support.
Most noticeable was the loss of significant woodwind material when Beethoven relegates the pianist to the role of accompanist. Roscoe certainly allowed it happen, but Leigh seemed unwilling to let his principal players seize their opportunities. It resulted in a disappointing mismatch, suggesting acolytes dutifully in attendance on their star soloist rather than a fully integrated musical partnership.