The concert, given by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, began with Beethoven's Fidelio overture. The piano was already on the stage, which meant there wasn't much delay before moving on to Schoenberg's Piano Concerto. Mitsuko Uchida deftly handled the work, which was very clearly technically challenging. I have to be honest and say that it's never going to be a favourite of mine, though it did have enough structure and rhythm to be plainly more than just a random stream of notes. She gave an encore from Schoenberg's Six Small Piano Pieces, Op.19.
I'd chosen this concert for the second half, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8 in C minor. It was interesting, particulary given the OAE prom earlier this week, to see the first violins begin without vibrato. One thing vibrato does give you is the blending of notes which might not quite be together, and I did feel I could hear that the violins weren't quite there. But we moved on, and I think the problem resolved itself. The first three movements in this wartime symphony are tumultuous and exhausting, before the "moto perpetuo" of the toccata fades into the slower fourth movement, and eventually we arrived at the calm serenity of the fifth movement. The programme notes told us:
Shostakovich replied to a musician who expressed admiration for that transformation: "My dear friend, if you only knew how much blood that C major cost me."
Given the enigmatic nature of many Shostakovich works, that is a comment that is open to several interpretations.