This evening’s performance marked the next stop on the Aurora Orchestra’s Grand Tour, continuing a five-year journey through the complete cycle of Mozart’s piano concertos. This is the first time all 27 concertos have been presented as part of a single series in the UK, marking this concert as a milestone and treat for all Mozart lovers. With a rich programme of Paganini, Mozart, Liszt and Mendelssohn, the selected pieces are highlights from their young prodigy tours.

Cédric Tiberghien © Benjamin Ealovega
Cédric Tiberghien
© Benjamin Ealovega

The programme opened with one of Paganini's 24 Caprices, a collection of virtuosic show pieces for solo violin considered the most demanding of all repertoire for this instrument. Each Caprice demonstrates a different strand of technique, and the A minor no. 5, performed by Thomas Gould, promised the ‘floridly virtuosic’ ability to play arpeggios and scales with effortless mastery. Gould swam elegantly through the Caprice, twisting his way through its depths, all without breaking for breath. Perhaps the speed of its execution demanded a minor sacrifice of timbre for technique, but this was offset by the brevity of the exercise and the magnitude of its effort.

I was looking forward to hearing the Aurora orchestra perform Mozart’s Fifth and Sixth Piano Concertos, as they aspire to be the world’s most creative orchestra. However, aspire may be the key word here. They played the Mozart well and with all the delicacy that the notes required, but it was a performance that simply delighted, but did nothing more. Perhaps its traditional realisation was disappointing because I was expecting some sort of creative revolution, but there was also a certain lack of animation which marked the performance reticent. Nicholas Collon conducted instinctively, with an ease that suggested he was more a diplomat than dictator. With a continuous smile, sparkle and a wink here and there to signal an entry or exit, he lifted and submerged the Aurora with a fluidity that guided their musical breath.

Pianist Cédric Tiberghien holds a career that spans five continents, sending him to some of the world’s greatest concert halls, including Carnegie hall, the Sydney Opera House and the Theatre des Champs Elysees. Tiberghien made himself at home amongst the orchestra and played the Mozart with passion and accuracy. However, it was his performance of Liszt that paid true homage to his skill.

Liszt’s “Le mal du pays” (Homesickness), put an interesting twist on the evening’s ‘Grand Tour’ theme, by reflecting on the loneliness of the traveller. In contrast to Liszt’s well-known melodrama and vivacity, “Le mal du pays” showed a darker, more vulnerable side to the composer. Free from the constraints of Mozart, Tiberghien was given a new lease of freedom and he took full advantage. Lingering on the silences between notes and torturing the audience with unsettling chromaticism, he did his utmost best to communicate isolation and yearning. Sandwiched between the two Mozart concertos, he slipped back into the shadows of the Aurora orchestra and was soon absorbed.

Returning after the interval, the Aurora approached Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony with a fresh energy and teased the audience with playful contrasts. The humming cellos and sweet unified bursts gave the second movement a particularly elegiac tone which provided a sense of maturity that was lacking in the Mozart. However, the enthusiasm of the audience seemed to have dwindled, for the theatre was considerably lighter in attendance – a pity for the Italian provided a jolly and vivacious ending to the programme!

***11