Mozart produced some of his greatest work at astonishingly high creative pressure. The last three symphonies were written in six weeks, and the C. Minor Piano Concerto in 21 days between work on The Marriage of Figaro.
The concerto is more openly tragic than Mozart usually permitted, and something more than surface elegance is demanded from the soloist. Penelope Spurrell, who performed the work last night with the Bulawayo Municipal Orchestra under Hugh Fenn, never really rose above an intimate, rather decorative conception.
Nor was she always consistent stylistically. The larghetto she played with almost romantic warmth, tapering her phrases to near-silence, but she glossed over the first movement’s second subject, which surely called for more expressive articulation
She had a beautiful cantabile and unobtrusive technique. There is a place for small-scale Mozart playing, but the C minor concerto requires greater authority and commitment than she provided.
There were good moments in Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony – the first movment’s triple forte climax came off very well – but the performance did not really cohere or convince, largely because of ragged ensemble in which the woodwind were again chiefly at fault.