Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beethoven and Perahia

Last night I attended the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert with Bernard Haitink, Principle Conductor, conducting. The concert included Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 44 in e (Mourning), Witold Lutoslawski's Symphony No. 4, and Ludwig Van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58; thus the concert spanned a period of 222 years from the first performance of the Haydn symphony in 1771 (when Beethoven was but one year old) to the first performance of Lutoslawski's symphony in 1993 (one year before his death). While all of the pieces were well-played by the orchestra under the direction of the inimitable Haitink, the most moving and interesting music for me was the Beethoven.

We were fortunate to have Murray Perahia as soloist for the Beethoven concerto. He is most familiar to me through his recordings of Mozart's piano concertos, but his discography includes notable recordings of works by Bach and Beethoven as well, including the concerto he performed last night. Over the years, starting with the Leeds Piano Competition in 1972, he has won many awards and studied with Mieczyslaw Horszowski (one of the great classical piano stylists of the twentieth century and a favorite of mine), while playing with such greats as Rudolph Serkin and Pablo Casals. His performance last night was sublime with a seemingly effortless touch that brought out both the inner tension and heavenly emotion Beethoven imbued in his music. From the uncommon opening of the concerto with the pianist entering before the orchestra, through the meditative yet tense conversation between piano and orchestra that fills the second movement, the concerto is one of the peaks of both Beethoven's oeuvre and the classical concerto literature. The pairing of Perahia's talent with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in performance of one of Beethoven's greatest concertos was simply the ideal that I seek when listening to a concert. I hope the rest of the concert season will hold similar experiences for me.

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