Orchestra of the Swan’s association with Benjamin Grosvenor is paying wonderful dividends. Next year the young pianist returns to perform the Schumann Concerto, but currently we are still getting over the absorbingly direct, uncluttered reading of the Grieg Concerto (so much a homage to the Schumann) which a packed Town Hall audience enjoyed last Wednesday afternoon.
Grosvenor is a man blessed with huge technical gifts and an equal lack of histrionics (pushier megastars take note), with a touching alertness to the orchestral context around him (pushier megastars continue to take note). His collaboration with conductor David Curtis and OOTS resulted in nothing less than total focus on music instead of performers, and Grieg, who once conducted on this stage, was obviously smiling.
Full, well-nourished piano tone (excellent set-up and tuning), subtle pedalling and crisp, rhythmic articulation were complemented by lively orchestral inner detail and a telling bass-line. This was an account which combined both driving energy and an almost improvisatory self-communing – and empathetic teamwork brought it all off in spades.
More Grieg had preceded, with the First ‘Peer Gynt’ Suite raised from its usual status as mere pot-boiling “pop” to a display of brilliant orchestration, woodwinds responding so gratefully.
The Norwegian connection was to have continued with some Delius, but in the event the orchestral parts provided by the publishers in the composer’s sesquicentenary year proved scandalously unuseable.
Instead we enjoyed a chamber orchestra-sized ‘Enigma Variations’, Elgar’s scoring emerging delightfully fresh instead of grandiose, and every player, not least timpanist Tim Farmer, rising to this rewarding challenge.