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1:15pm Friday 1st June 2012 in Leisure
Berlin Symphony Orchestra, St George’s Hall, Bradford, May 18
The Berlin Symphony Orchestra might not have the glamour of the Berlin Philharmonic but a succession of distinguished chief conductors including Kurt Sanderling, Gunther Herbig, Eliahu Inbal and Lothar Zagrosek has nurtured an ensemble of the highest quality.
Guest conductor Alexander Liebreich squeezed every nuance of drama from Beethoven's Egmont Overture in a thrillingly paced performance; the luxuriant string section and a plangent flute solo were particularly striking.
Mozart's beguiling Piano Concerto No 21 was played by Kit Armstrong, an amazing 20-year-old Taiwanese-British pianist and composer – a protege of Alfred Brendel.
His cool showmanship will doubtless mature into interpretative wisdom; meanwhile, this performance bore the stamp of Armstrong's personality from the first notes to the last, extending to solo cadenzas most definitely not by Mozart. The second half opened with Beethoven's Coriolan Overture, leading without an intrusive break for applause, into Brahms' Symphony No 1.
The sometimes dirge-like opening bars with their pulsing timpani beat immediately acquired momentum in Liebreich's hands, setting the tone for an allegro movement that was bursting with energy.
Liebreich caressed the slow movement, allowing it to emerge in all of its sunlit serenity. The exuberance of the scherzo and the relentless power of the finale were captured to perfection.