Sunwook Kim certainly merited the rapturous applause at the end of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. Technically, he was note perfect and his nimble-fingered, flawless playing was always marked by the flowing ease with which he delivered the music.
Feeling appeared to be there, too, although he didn’t wear emotional response on his sleeve.
It came over very much as a chamber music-like performance with the Hallé reduced to ‘authentic’ size proportions and Sir Mark Elder in complete accord with his soloist over dynamic matters.
The accord was so complete, the ‘discussion’ between soloist and orchestra was one that always had them in agreement, especially in the lengthy first movement, where one longed for more colour and wider dynamic response in the music.
The whole was tinged in pastel colours and shades without a bold brush stroke rearing its head. For all the sublimity and consummate musicianship on display, is that really Beethoven?
By stark contrast, Elder gave us a highly dramatic account of Dvorák’s Water Goblin with the conductor’s distinguished opera-house exploits surfacing with the malevolent creature.
The brass let rip more tellingly each time it appeared and the atmosphere at the creature’s wedding was vividly gloomy, for example.
Superb playing, with gorgeous string tone, from the Hallé served as advance warning what to expect in Elgar’s Enigma Variations – a magnificent performance with Elder (conducting from memory) strongly etching each with crystal clarity and rounded individuality.