Review: Zurich Chamber Orchestra with Alison Balsom and Gabriela Montero at Cambridge Corn Exchange: Not just a performance but an homage

Gabriella Alison

Gabriella Alison - Credit: Archant

The audience was on its feet after the final notes of The Zurich Chamber Orchestra at Cambridge Corn Exchange with soloists Alison Balsom, trumpet and Gabriela Montero, piano.

Gabriela Montero

Gabriela Montero - Credit: Archant

It was a perfectly balanced concert where each soloist showed her mastery of the mysteries of music in different pieces – and then they both shone together in a blinding finale.

All four pieces performed: Mozart’s Symphony No 33 in B flat major K319, his Piano Concerto in E flat major; Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat major and Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 1 in C, Opus 35 were written when the composers were in their 20s but at different stages in their career.

The programme notes say Mozart and Hummel stayed within the established traditions but Shostakovich’s piece is experimental.

Every note played in this concert from start to finish was as immaculate as it was joyous. The Mozart is full of charm, the Hummel is full of humour. The Shostakovich is all of life, in parts achingly sad, at times laughing and funny, another part triumphant, another nostalgic and thoughtful.

Alison Balsom had already taken three bows, called back by a delighted house for the Hummel, and Gabriela Montero was likewise feted for Mozart’s piano concerto. When they both played their parts of the Shostakovich, it was transporting. You felt, this is why I am alive. It was not just a performance but an homage.

After it was clear that the audience was reluctant to let Gabriela leave the stage, she came back for her signature encore. She likes to improvise, she said because: “Nothing is prepared beforehand and afterwards it doesn’t exist. I like the fragility of that.”

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She asked the audience to suggest a well-known tune. A man called out the name of a waltz and she asked him to sing it. After he did, rather tunefully, she created a piano confection especially for that night. We had our very own performance that will not be heard again.

This concert was part of the Cambridge Classical Concert Series running until June 2017. January’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing the music of John Williams is already sold out. It will be followed by Alison Balsom in recital on February 21, The Philharmonia Orchestra on March 4, The European Chamber Orchestra on April 6, Moscow Philharmonic on May 11 and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on June 17.