Interesting to hear Nederlands Kamerorkest: Frank Martin’s Pavane played well as an unusual introduction to this classic programme. The acoustic of the Concertgebouw integrated the string sound with a very pleasing effect.
Alexandre Tharaud sited the piano dead centre of the orchestra so he was facing the orchestra with his back to the audience. This was clearly great for eyeline communication with the players and gave unusually close partnership where the piano is alternating with - for example - the woodwind. Unfortunately, the resulting piano sound was relatively diffuse and distant which spoiled the overall balance. A great shame because this was a sprightly and sensitive performance.
After the interval, the orchestra increased in numbers on the platform for Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, directed by the leader, Gordan NikoliÄ. Great benefits here from conductor-less approach, the balance was generally good and where the counterpoint plays between instruments was unusually close. Very tight ensemble, particularly on the fortissimi. Great tension and high drama in the Funeral March. But the established standard is very high for performances of Beethoven Symphonies.
What was lacking was overall vision, most clearly evident in the restatements of the main theme of the finale, a mainstream conductor would probably alternate the highlighting of particular instruments, which lifts the preface from being an event to the sublime. Nonetheless a thrilling performance with great snap. The colour of the natural trumpets added a nice degree of martial brilliance.