Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, Conductor
Rudolph Buchbinder, Piano
At Avery Fisher Hall
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 14, 2012
Osmo Vänskä is Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra and is Conductor Laureate at the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in Finland. He guest conducts and records internationally, including Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Japan, Hong Kong, Berlin and Vienna. (Program Notes).
Rudolph Buchbinder performs and records on piano regularly with orchestras around the globe, in Berlin, New York, Paris, London, Salzburg, and Vienna. Mr. Buchbinder has recorded all five Beethoven piano concertos with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, as soloist and conductor. (Program Notes).
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Sonata No. 23 in F minor (“Appassionata”) (c. 1804-05): Allegro Assai, Andante con moto, Allegro ma non troppo.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Symphony No. 32 in G major, K. 318 (1779).
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor (c. 1800-03): Allegro con brio, Largo, Rondo: Allegro.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Symphony in C major (“Great”) (c. 1825-28): Andante-Allegro ma non troppo-Piu moto, Andante con moto; Scherzo: Allegro vivace-Trio, Finale: Allegro vivace..
Rudolph Buchbinder opened tonight’s Mostly Mozart, with its “early show”, the Pre-Concert Recital. He tore into Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata with fire, after entering the hall with an air of humility. Mr. Buchbinder has recorded, live, the entire series of Beethoven sonatas, with concerts in Dresden and St. Petersburg. As a result, he earned the ECHO Klassik Award for Instrumentalist of the year.
As the “Appassionata” unfolded, the Allegro assai presented contrasting passages, evocative of a roaring train, with a repetitive melody. Mr. Buchbinder raced across the keyboard, and the Hall became electrified. One could only begin to anticipate the upcoming Beethoven Piano Concerto. The Andante opened with church chime effects, almost a funereal march, sad and slow. Mr. Buchbinder waxed poetic and poignant, changing the tempo of the original theme. The final Allegro was yearning and compelling, rapid and radiant. Crescendos, like waterfalls, tore through the keyboard, as Mr. Buchbinder attacked the keys in wild momentum. The audience was thrilled.
When Osmo Vänskä appeared, one sensed a strong chemistry with this Festival Orchestra, and that chemistry was realized throughout the evening. Maestro Vänskä is a nimble, athletic conductor, bending down through his knees to signal low, trembling notes, or waving his arms for swirling strings. The Mozart Symphony No. 32 was a brief nine minute piece, with pregnant pauses after voluminous harmonies. A wilting, whispery summer sound ensued, and as I was seated up front, near the violins, I was enveloped by scintillating strings.
The Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 brought back a now popular Mr. Buchbinder. After an orchestral introduction in the Allegro, with an echoing structured theme repeating various motifs, Mr. Buchbinder wove that theme in rapid treble blendings. The piano theme reappeared in romantic variations, merging with the orchestra’s swirling momentum, before the movement ended in a giant flourish, followed by extended silence. The Largo was bucolic, longing, and expansive, yet understated. One long songbird-like solo, maybe from the oboe, brought the Hall to a meadowland at dusk. Mr. Buchbinder followed with his own solo, adding reverence. The Rondo was introduced by a waltz-like piano theme, with the orchestra joining the jubilance. A dervish dance ensued, with strings and piano, and it seemed that Maestro Vänskä and Mr. Buchbinder led a shimmering summer celebration. The piano drove the momentum, with percussive flourishes and yet another songbird solo, maybe a clarinet, maybe an oboe. The Concerto ended with thunder and theater. Many bows followed.
Seven years ago, in 2005, I heard the Schubert “Great Symphony” performed right here, under the baton of Maestro Vänskä. At that time I was drawn in and impressed. Tonight I was even more mesmerized, with Maestro Vänskä’s kinetic connection to this orchestra and to every single bar of music. He has internalized the themes and eagerly anticipates each new phrase. The Andante opens with regal flair, as Maestro Vänskä bends backward and forward, even kneels as he conducts, barely looking at the music, totally absorbed. His spritely energy engages the orchestra and the audience. The second movement Andante sounds like a folkloric festival, a peasant dance, almost balletic in quality. In fact, this movement would be a wonderful rhythmic score for choreography. Maestro Vänskä ends the movement holding his hands together, as if to quash the music to silence. The Scherzo has joking, joyous phrases, lively and lyrical. It was evocative of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Its effervescence was inherent in the orchestral performance. The Finale was presented like heralding royalty. Trumpets and brassiness combined with strings, followed by quietude and rapidly contrasting volume. Maestro Vänskä bent down to connect with the Concertmaster’s lead violin. Four heavy notes repeat, before fireworks of musicality end the Symphony.
Kudos to all.