Maria João Pires continued to hook up with conductor Lorenzo Viotti, but the frantic crowd at the sold-out Concertgebouw really came for her. Viotti, who hid behind the grand piano during the applause, felt it well. He conducted the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday evening, in addition to Mozart’s Last Piano Concerto, together with Pieris, also in Brahms’s Second Symphony and Wagner’s Siegfried Edel.
Up front there were good reasons not to click between Pires and Vioti, opposites in many respects. Pierce, the languid anti-singer from Portugal, is show-stopping, has a love-hate relationship with the stage (and with the grand piano) and seems almost serendipitous into the presence of a classical star.
Viotti is the perfectly styled makeup artist who doesn’t shy away from the grand gesture and uses his six-pack on Instagram to recruit young fans for his art. In his tailored suit and mustache, he looked like a gentleman out of a costume drama, while in speaking of goats beforehand he paid tribute to Peirce’s service to the music.
But the good thing is that very different personalities can sometimes find each other. Viotti is a craftsman who has an instinct for dramaturgy and his accompaniment in Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 He was properly restrained, so that Pires had all the space. Immediately on her first entry, after the lengthy orchestral introduction, she wrote a delightful line phrase, in the subtlest of colours. No matter how polished and subtle it plays at times, it never sinks in – great work.
“I’m getting older and playing worse than ever,” Pires said last winter. in NRC. She also said that aging provided new insights, especially during concerts. Her playing was certainly not flawless on Saturday, but it was lovely, the opposite of clinical, the opposite of resourceful: warm, intimate, thoughtful. In a disarming manner, Peres looked relaxed and happy afterwards.
“Get back on the floor again,” Viotti sighed after the break, before (from memory) Brahms’ light kick started off with his second foot. Mozart’s poor line-up expanded from the NedPhO into a large orchestra, but there was plenty of chamber musical ingenuity, for example in the fine woodwind ensemble at the beginning of the allegretto. A delightful finale full of the luster of life. On Saturday, NedPhO will once again play Brahms’ Second, without Pires, with baritone Matthias Goerne at Mahlers Ruckert Leader.
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