L.v.Beethoven, Piano Concertos,
Radu Lupu / Z.Mehta / Israel Phil.
S.Rattle / BPh
Radu Lupu, one of the great musicians of our time, does much with little; his playing impresses you before you even know it has. Musicality and subtlety are on his side, and his style is casual. The grand romantic gesture—in any case not appropriate for a work like Beethoven’s C-major piano concerto—is completely foreign to him. Even if his casualness occasionally veers dangerously close to slackness, the result is playful-fulfilling Beethoven beyond the fray of tedious comparison… simple and perfect for the moment you are experiencing it in.
In some ways even more impressive—though maybe only due to comparatively lower expectations—was the contribution of the Bavarian State Orchestra under Kent Nagano: chamber-like dry delicacy with character from the first notes, sharp accents, and abrupt attacks, it mirrored Lupu’s touch to some extent, and riffed on it. Only the woodwinds might have taken that wry approach a little too far; freely crossing the line between matter-of-factly and unlovely in both directions.
Brahms’ First Symphony came with a saturated, unrelenting (Rattleish) first movement, plowing through and pummeling all of Brahms’ own doubts with ostentatious confidence and determination. If the string sound hadn’t been squeezed, and the concert master on duty on this second of two nights hadn’t struggled so mightily, the first three movements would have been even more imposing than they were. The Fourth Movement didn’t live up to the expectations the first three had set; the pizzicato parts were a touch too slow and too self-conscious—which resulted in the Alphorn motif no longer sounding like a fresh start, a new horizon shown, a tender revelation, but instead a mere continuation of all that which came before.