Stephen Hough/WA Symphony Orchestra
Perth Concert Hall
Although one would have preferred to hear distinguished British pianist Stephen Hough in a work worthier of his stellar gifts than Saint Saens' glittering but trashy Piano Concerto No 5, his performance was so technically adroit and tonally sumptuous that, for the duration of the work, he made this keyboard effusion sound vastly better than it in fact is - and that is the mark of a great interpreter.
With infallible fingers capable, seemingly effortlessly, of the subtlest pianissimo shadings and top-speed, filigree traceries in the treble register as well as a no less impressive ability to conjure massive, double-octave eruptions from the instrument, Hough came across as a man at the top of his game. And US conductor Robert Spano and the WASO were consistently on their musical toes in supporting their distinguished soloist.
Spatterings of unwanted and intrusive applause broke out like an unsightly rash between movements of the concerto.
Afterwards, Hough gave a delightful encore, a gently introspective arrangement of an extract from a Massenet-inspired ballet.
Beethoven's Fidelio Overture was less uniformly fine with some tentative moments and a need, early in the piece, for more precise synchronisation of woodwind and brass. Overall, the inherent drama of the writing surely called for more ardent advocacy on the part of the players.
There was splendour aplenty, though, in Rimsky-Korsakov's sumptuously scored Scheherazade in which Allan Meyer (clarinet), David Evans (horn), Andrew Nicholson (flute) and Jane Kircher-Lindner (bassoon), in particular, brought the stamp of stylistic distinction to their contributions. And apart from a brief weakening of concentration in the closing moments of the work, Giulio Plotino's violin sang with seductive sweetness as the voice of the eponymous heroine of Rimsky's much loved opus. Throughout, tempi were sensible and workable - and the WASO's cornucopia of luxurious tonal colours invariably fell agreeably on the ear.