A Little Night Music promised a delightful evening of choice piano pieces associated with the night-time. Where it shone was in its darker, stiller moments. The crashing thunder of midnight storms in the final movement of the Moonlight Sonata was less convincing.
The programme began with four of Chopin’s Nocturnes. Alasdair Cameron played with a stately upright posture which belied his expressive playing. Taking the tricky acoustics by the horns, he filled St Cuthbert’s Church with his clear melodies. The Nocturne in E Minor Op. posth. 72 No. 1 had a rumbling bass part which could easily have turned into a mush of low notes in another pianist’s hands.
However, as time went on, Cameron began to make slips. Debussy’s Claire de Lune, which was played a fraction too fast, had a number of errors during its long crescendo, while later the famous, shimmering melody was tainted by more mistakes. It was surprising that Cameron hadn’t taken the time to prepare himself adequately to perform such a well-known piece. The music should reach for the ethereal, beautifully evoking the wonder and fear the night can inspire, but instead it sometimes felt as if we were on a shoddy theatre set and the eponymous moonlight was just a stage lamp.
Nevertheless, Grieg’s Nocturne Op. 54 No. 4 was a standout piece, with glittering arpeggios and skilfully played scalic runs and ornamentation, conjuring a cloak of darkness around the audience. However it was the final piece, Beethoven’s Sonata in C# Minor - the Moonlight Sonata - which left the biggest impression. Unfortunately, the impression wasn’t a good one.
It became clear almost as soon as he began that Cameron had not rehearsed enough to perform the Moonlight Sonata. It’s a tricky piece at the best of times, particularly its raging final movement, but it often felt as if Cameron was relying more on the sheet music in front of him than his knowledge of the work. He had brought his music on for all of the pieces but it was in this that he made the most mistakes.
The first two movements were by no means perfect, but the presto agitato that followed was extremely messy. Cameron played the blistering runs up the keyboard at speed, but this came at the expense of accuracy. Many of the repeated phrases were well played, but the transitional elements gluing the piece together were often very scrappy. The number of slips put a negative spin on the rest of the programme: it was not clear why Cameron was performing this piece when it was not at concert standard.
Still Cameron received an encore from the enthusiastic crowd, which he performed to a much higher level. It was another of Chopin’s Nocturnes and he used dynamics to great effect, showing his real talent once more. It’s a shame that he felt the need to overstretch himself with the Moonlight Sonata: without those fifteen minutes the concert would have been much more uplifting. As it was, this part of the concert let in the cold light of day, presenting Cameron less like the master he is known to be and more like an ambitious enthusiast.