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Notes from the 2010 Salzburg Festival ( 2 )

Camerata Salzburg 1

Sometimes great musical geniuses seem to be driven to ‘non-functionality’, as Joachim Kaiser once put it in the context of Carlos Kleiber’s death. Michealangeli, perhaps even Gould come to mind, also. When displaying signs of ‘non-functionality’, it certainly helps to be considered a genius though. Which brings me to Ivo Pogorelich, who has unquestionably displayed signs of ‘non-functionality’ in the past, whose celebrated career has petered out to a trickle after a nearly 11-year hiatus, and who is slow in re-starting his career. Almost six years ago he performed at the George Mason University’s Center for the Arts (review), bringing baffling Beethoven but stunning moments in Liszt. He’s still a rare sight on concert schedules even in Europe, and in the US I don’t think he plays at all; too much risk and too little draw for organizers to program him.

He re-affirmed the risk-part when, on extremely short notice, he canceled his two scheduled performances with the Salzburg Camerata under Philippe Herreweghe, which was to include his first public performance of the Chopin e-minor concerto. He might very well have the ‘Summer flu’ of course—and if so, one wishes him the best for a speedy recovery. In fact I’ve heard that he seems fairly level headed these days, and excited about performing. But with a certain reputation once acquired, that’s not the first thought that comes to mind. [Edit: As it turns out: No ‘Summer flu’ and decidedly not ‘well adjusted’, the reasons for Pogorelich ‘withdrawing’ were perfectly aligned with the concept of ‘‘non-functionality’’.]

Enough about the man who didn’t show and instead about the girl that replaced him: Not one of the greats already in town—Kissin, Argerich, Barenboim, Sokolov, but Yu Kosuge, a 28-year old Japanese pianist with a respectable bio and performing schedule stepped in and played the f-minor concerto (leaving the more interesting e-minor for an as-of-yet unannounced (female) pianist Polina Leschenko). Yu Kosuge did so very well, tame, nicely balanced, slightly boring, with technique to spare and sparing emotions. Very, very nice, though, were those runs in the finale, where her touch was full of lightness and held in a most graceful piano and pianissimo. The audience went nuts and got two fitting, if not particularly novel (or energizing), Schumann (?) encores. Where’s Shchedrin’s Humoresque or Rzewski’s Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues when you need it?

The Salzburg Camerata wasn’t in top form, though—the violins sounding like steel strung instruments often do when asked to play with little or no vibrato. The brass constantly flubbed in the two Schumann symphonies also on the program, of which No.3, the Rhenish that ended the program, was considerably better than the Spring Symphony No.1 which sounded just tedious. When faced with Schumann, one can’t help to yearn for a big-boned, romantic sound. Or else to hear something exciting, crisp attacks with a punchy, even aggressive sound. One got neither. The sound of the Salzburg Camerata in the Haus für Mozart was dull and too comfy. Herreweghe, who has completely mastered double-symmetry of his conducting hands, looking at times like gramps shaking his fists at the orchestra, didn’t elicit the kind of performances from them that he has gotten from his own groups in either baroque, classical, or romantic music. Disappointing.

More tomorrow about the first of ten (10 !) concerts with Wolfgang Rihm’s music.


Jeffrey Kallberg said...

This is a "level-headed" pianist??


Charles T. Downey said...

Pogorelich's 2006 recitals in Washington and New York were even worse than in 2004, earning savage reviews the major dailies in those cities.

Also, Jens, did you note that David Patrick Stearns quoted your 2004 review (not cited by name or Web address, unfortunately!) in the article cited in the comment above?

But as one blogger put it, you never know if Pogorelich is being a phoenix or playing a swan song. The problem with Wednesday's performance was that his viewpoint lacked the clarity to be either - and lacked beauty as well.

Please, newspaper critics, throw a Web site a bone and mention us by name!

jfl said...

Never mind the missing citation... he called me a W H A T???

Charles T. Downey said...

Hee hee: the word that shall never be uttered...