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Concert review: After tempo and audibility issues, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony finishes on a high

Published on May 11, 2014 11:16 AM

Beethoven's ground-breaking Fifth Symphony continues to draw the crowds, going by the packed house at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Friday, with even the choir seats filled, and all this without a superstar soloist performing a famous concerto.

Acclaimed British pianist Martin Roscoe played Ernst von Dohnanyi's Variations On A Nursery Song, an accessible set of variations for piano and orchestra based on the most well-known nursery song of all - "Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman", which most of us would recognise as the tune to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Roscoe toyed with the audience and orchestra in the lighter moments of Dohnanyi's writing, but for rest of the piece, he was all business, delivering excellent tone and a dynamic range that belied his unassuming demeanour. The 11 variations present formidable technical challenges to the soloist, but Roscoe was more than up to them. What was most impressive was his ability to make every variation musical, without resorting to excessive dramatics.

Dohnanyi's orchestration is as colourful as the piano part, making full use of the percussion section for drama, and throwing in a fugue for good measure. Veteran conductor Gunther Herbig directed a spirited accompaniment, complementing Roscoe well. The Dohnanyi Variations may not be a familiar work to many in the audience, but Roscoe's impeccable musicianship made the music sound familiar and thoroughly enjoyable.

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