Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Garrick Ohlsson plays the Emperor Concerto at Mostly Mozart

(photo courtesy of Garrick Ohlsson)

Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra
Susanna Mälkki, conductor
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

SCHUBERT/BERIO: Rendering (1990)
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”) (1809)

Last season I had the pleasure and great privilege of hearing Garrick Ohlsson play Liszt and Mozart , and so I was excited to hear him again last night with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in my favorite works, Beethoven's Emperor Concerto.

This masterpiece of piano literature opens with a grand flourish and develops its famous themes into virtuosic passages for the soloist in the exposition. Ohlsson played Beethoven with his customary brilliance and forthright, lapidary style and it was thrilling to listen to him in the cadenzas.

It was particularly interesting to hear him play the Adagio, where he avoided extreme pianissimos and slow tempi in favor of a more candid, ardent phrasing. The Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra seemed to lack the heft that I have come to associate with Beethoven, but perhaps this wasn't such a bad thing. Maikki conducted the score with a Mozartean lilt, emphasizing the concerto's classical, rather than romantic, aspects.

The program began with Luciano Berio's Rendering, which he composed in 1989 using fragments of Schubert's unfinished Tenth Symphony as his framework. It certainly sounded like Schubert, at least in the opening themes, but then surreal, diaphanous passages of atonality and dissonance filled the gaps, resulting in an impressionistic soundscape much like a sweet dream morphing into something more disturbing. The orchestra played its many facets with wit and polish.

This was my first Mostly Mozart concert in a very long time. Their season runs through August 24. I should definitely look into their remaining concerts on the calendar. Here's a complete recording of Rendering with Christoph Eschenbach conducting the Orchestre de Paris.

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