The second pianist to replace Ivo Pogorelich at the Camerata Salzburg Schumann/Chopin concerts (after he had been kindly asked to catch a ‘summer flu’ on short notice) was the 29 year old St. Petersburgian Polina Leschenko. Highly pregnant, she waddled to the piano bench, carefully placed herself on it, cradled her tummy during the orchestral introduction of Chopin’s e-minor concerto (No.1, op.11), and then hurled herself into the piano entry with headlong abandon. She made clear from note one that this wasn’t going to be another conservatory-style performance of immaculate facelessness, interchangeably pleasant and impeccably boring. Nor did she bother with dreamy, chiffon-in-the-breeze exaggerations that might fit the pregnant-with-Chopin cliché. Hers was a boldly willful interpretation, with a decidedly personal stamp but without distorting the concerto, as individual as it was musical, spellbindingly irregular, unpredictable. Attitude without the dysfunction. Had she played an encore—she didn’t seem keen on doing so and the audience’s applause, though generous, didn’t outright demand it, either—she might actually have played something funky like the Shschedrin Humoresque.
Camerata Salzburg 2
After the first movement, spontaneous applause broke out, but the applause-police was alert and hissed them back into shamed silence. How dare they be so misled by their emotions. But seriously: If you can’t get at least a few listeners to clap on instinct after the first movement of this concerto, then you have failed completely as a pianist. I can see myself agreeing that when you clap into a Bruckner Adagio or Wagner’s Good Friday music, the applause might be ill-placed. But if you think spontaneous appreciation mustn’t happen even after the bravura ending of a romantic concerto, then you clearly are mistaking art for religion, stages for altars, and you don’t act musically but cultish. Coughing your lung out is better between movements than explicit excitement?
The real crime is in any case committed by the eager early clappers, ready to ruin any resonant reverence just to show how very well they know the piece (and convention). I bet the intersection between those and the hiss-police is telling. (See the scientific looking, albeit completely speculative Venn diagram below.)
Speaking of orchestra: the Schumann—Symphonies Nos.4 and 2—was an improvement over the performances from Wednesday… but not by much and not by enough. The Camerata Salzburg still didn’t seem able to make much of Philippe Herreweghe’s chicken-dance conducting maneuvers. Timid trombones and drowsy clarinets, occasional, obvious attempts at zest and vigor, redeeming qualities in the respective last movements but flubs elsewhere: The artists’ individual excellence did not prevail in this coming-together. Herreweghe, methinks, should stick to orchestras and ensembles that know him well and with whom he achieves world class results and the Camerata Salzburg should stick to more efficient guest conductors if their artistic director Leonidas Kavakos isn’t on duty.