Liszt, Piano Concertos, J.-Y. Thibaudet, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, C. Dutoit (Decca, 1992)
I have not had the chance to hear much of Picker's music live, but I think of Picker more as an opera composer. This work, ostensibly a concerto for orchestra, did not do much to advance him in my estimation as an orchestral composer. One goes into such a piece expecting innovative orchestration, surprising uses of the instruments, and a range of styles and textures. In most of these expectations, it disappointed. There were solos for the string instruments, none all that remarkable, an extended one for the trombone; in the second movement, along with an odd bit for solo horn, there was a baffling passage for a single melodic line on the piano; the percussion was perhaps overly present, but aside from some lush moments in the fifth and final movement, little stood out in terms of orchestral color or form.
Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet gave a generally fine performance of the solo part in Liszt's second piano concerto. The orchestra did not seem quite on the same intonation page with the piano at the opening of the piece, with its interwoven woodwind solos, but Thibaudet took all the work's flowing runs and thundering octaves in stride, with a few minor exceptions. The work feels like such a hodgepodge: hints of a Tchaikovsky ballet score in the first big orchestral interlude; harmonic and melodic turns that nuzzle up to the edge of jazzy Gershwin; a devilish scherzo that morphs into a pompous march; an elfin dance finale. In the second movement, we suddenly wake up and find ourselves in a cello sonata for a short time, which was a particularly lovely moment in this performance.
Anne Midgette, Picker premiere leads NSO’s packed program (Washington Post, March 11)
This concert repeats on Saturday night only.