by Jethro Wegener
The Esplanade Concert Hall played host to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and guest Stephen Hough as they performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3 in front of a full house of music lovers.
Originally performed in 1803, Piano Concerto No.3 was the first to use a minor key. A work full of raging emotions it was one of the first to truly reveal snatches of Beethoven’s creative genius. In the inaugural performance of the piece, Beethoven famously played the solo from memory as he had not yet had time to commit it to paper.
The performance by Hough and the SSO was nothing short of excellent. Conductor Lan Shui led the SSO through an almost flawless rendition of the the piece with a noble, restrained dignity, but the main star of the show was Hough himself.
Hough proved once again why he is regarded as one of the greatest artists of his generation, playing with incredible poise and grace. At times gently caressing the keys and at others sitting bolt upright as if the very piano sent a jolt of lightning through him, Hough managed to bring the melody to life. The music washed over the audience; beautiful, haunting and rousing all at once, holding everyone enraptured.
After the pianist’s excellent performance, the Anton Bruckner Symphony No. 8 was played. Although the piece drew harsh criticism at the time of its debut, it is only fitting it should have been performed this evening after Beethoven’s work as Bruckner was a great admirer of his. And what a performance it was. Moving from large, bombastic moments that made one’s heart race to light, almost whimsical sections that were dreamlike and striking, the piece was impeccably executed.
By the end, the thunderous applause and cries of ‘Bravo!’ spoke for themselves. Hough, Maestro Lan Shui, and the SSO were in top form and made the night one to remember.