As a newcomer to Tim Horton's Beethoven cycle, I was wary of its relentlessness - the Beethoven being programmed without responses from other composers - and wondered what personal insights he would bring to this, the mother of all crowded fields.
The opening of Op 10 No 1 was a convincing start with a deeply felt contrast between the themes: a ratty, urgent opening followed by a second subject which squeezed in some proto-Brahms molto rubato, somehow without sounding gratuitous.
The narrative for the first half was revealing the dark heart of the music within the slow movements, with Op 10 No 3 coming next.
As Horton explained to the audience, Beethoven, in his late twenties, revealed his prodigious sense of the tragic here. These movements tonight were certainly deep and pensive, even anguished when things became harmonically troubled.
A perennial niggle registered with me by the interval: that Horton justifies imprecision by rushing towards the end of each phrase when things get virtuosic.
The first movement of Op 10 No 3 was a tad superficial at Horton's literal presto. Of course, even faster tempi can be effective in this movement when it's earthy and metronomic, but this was light and loose. It was very well contrasted with the slow movement, but it is more than just a framing device.
However, after the interval the opening of Op 10 No 2 made the best case for this edgy approach: rollicking, with a touch of tavern humour, the broken octaves dazzlingly crisp in the development. Then, the finale was in the most tearing hurry of the evening, a romp that sacrificed all sense of poise.
The Waldstein was the headline act, and it was a performance that beguiled with delicacy rather than necessarily demonstrating all the notes.
I'd been waiting for Horton to give a passage some real space, and it turned out this was a trick he was saving for the introduction to the second movement, where everything was momentarily suspended in mid-air.
When the great theme finally emerged it felt truly heroic, and one flawless pianissimo statement was genuinely breathtaking.
The first Bagatelle from Op. 126 was an understated, enticing encore doubling as ‘to be continued’ sign.