For Friday’s late night prom, Andrew Manze and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra brought a decidedly quirky programme. The Brahms thread continued on from the early evening concert by Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, but this was Brahms with a strong twist. The only authentic Brahms in the programme were the two Intermezzi from op. 117 for piano solo, performed elegantly by Angela Hewitt on her favoured Fazioli grand piano. The serene mood of these pieces – the first is a lullaby and the second also has a nocturnal feel – provided a perfect opener for the late night setting. Personally I think placing solo repertoire within an orchestral concert is a great idea if it works well in context as here.

© BBC / Peter Searle
© BBC / Peter Searle

Schumann’s rarely performed Introduction and Concert Allegro op. 134 for piano and orchestra was dedicated to the young Brahms, thus seemed on paper a perfect choice for this Brahms-related programme. However, the work, which was composed only five months before Schumann’s attempted suicide in 1854, reflects his mental instability and is a strangely meandering work. There is only one proper melodic idea which is repeated endlessly, without any sense of direction or development. One could not fault the enthusiasm and commitment of the musicians: Angela Hewitt negotiated the virtuosic piano part with fluency and Manze and the orchestra provided incisive accompaniment. At the end of the day, though, I felt the work wasn’t attractive enough to merit more regular outings.

The main work of the evening was Schoenberg’s colourful orchestral arrangement of Brahms’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor. It is known that Schoenberg was an admirer of Brahms’s music; Schoenberg liked this piano quartet but thought it was never performed well, and saw in it potential as an orchestral work.

As I am familiar with the original piano quartet, at first I found it quite difficult to listen to the orchestral version – brilliant as it is – without comparing it with Brahms’s original. However, once I overcame this, there was much to enjoy both in the arrangement and the performance. Orchestrally, the first two movements stay close to the mood of the original, but in the third and fourth movements, Schoenberg takes a more audacious approach and creates a more brash soundworld. Manze conducted with intense energy throughout and kept the music flowing, although at times things sounded somewhat muddy. The BBCSSO performed with gusto, and the wind section made excellent contributions, especially the clarinetist Yann Ghiron. In the final "Rondo alla Zingarese" (in Gypsy style), the orchestra let their hair down and created a thrilling finish. However, this was definitely more Schoenberg than Brahms, and ultimately it made me want to go back to Brahms’s original.