Britten Sinfonia/Lewis – review

Milton Court, London
Mozart's Piano Concerto No 12 produced sparks of brilliance from Paul Lewis, though the hall's vibrant acoustic proved more suited to Stravinsky

The Britten Sinfonia has a new London base for its eclectic, joyously performed concerts: Milton Court, which is both the Guildhall School of Music and Drama's new concert hall and an outpost of the nearby Barbican. One of the most striking things about this group of players is their immediacy – of which the loud, glowing acoustic of Milton Court's wood-clad auditorium supplies still more. On this showing, not all of the Sinfonia's London audience has been persuaded to seek out the new venue yet, but they shouldn't hesitate.

Admittedly, there were moments in this programme when the glow became almost too much. Paul Lewis should perhaps not have had the lid of his Steinway fully open for Mozart's Piano Concerto No 12 in A; the piano sound was apt to become boomy at full tilt, adding a hint of murkiness to what was otherwise a light-footed performance, Lewis's flowing yet thoughtful playing producing sparks of brilliance alongside a vibrant orchestra.

The acoustic had been ideal, however, for the opening work, Stravinsky's characterful Three Pieces for String Quartet; and the piece in between sounded radiant. Written in 2009, Anna Clyne's Within Her Arms is an elegy for the composer's mother, for 15 solo strings. It starts with the players shadowing each other so that a small figure constantly blurs and slides into itself; this develops into a tense middle episode above a low drone, then blossoms into music that at times recalls Tippett's greatest string writing. It was almost mesmeric – but mesmerising us would have been too easy; instead, Clyne kept us guessing by linking instruments on opposite sides of the stage together so that notes seemed to leave their aura in unexpected places.

Oboist Nicholas Daniel was the soloist in Nicholas Maw's Little Concert, outstanding as ever, revelling first in its yearning, piquant-edged melodies, then in its playfulness. Finally, we heard an electrifying scamper through Haydn's oddball Symphony No 60. Led by violinist Jacqueline Shave, the Sinfonia players held elegance and eccentricity in perfect balance.

• On BBC iPlayer until Friday

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Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

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