Friday, April 20, 2012

Garrick Ohlsson plays Mozart

Last night the New York Philharmonic presented Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 (1777) and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 (1888) with pianist Garrick Ohlsson and conductor Herbert Blomstedt.

Mozart wrote the concerto at the age of 21 for Louise Victoire Jenamy whose last name perhaps accounts for the nickname Jeunehomme.  Even though many consider it to be Mozart's first masterpiece, this work is rather hard to find in concert programs (the Philharmonic last played it in 1997). It is also Mozart's longest concerto for piano.

Ohlsson played with bright, lapidary style with judicious pedalling and ornamentation. His forthright tone and complete lack of sentimentality, even in the Andantino, somehow threw the concerto's melancholy undercurrents into sharp relief and even made them heartbreaking. He gave a ravishing account, one that will stay with me for a long time.

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 is more frequently performed and Blomstedt, now 84, kept the piece fresh, immediate, and exciting. He even managed to prevent endless repetition of the "Fate" theme from becoming exasperating, which is a miracle of sorts. The second and third movements were especially fine.

The program will be repeated tonight and on Saturday.

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