The “Emperor” Concerto could have been written for Mr. Ohlsson, so well does it suit his muscular technique and the sensitivity and restraint with which he deploys it.Varied, Colorful Elements, United in Performance09 Aug 2012
There seem to be odd little pockets of convergence in the musical cosmos. One involves the pianist Garrick Ohlsson, the composer Luciano Berio and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. The last time I heard Mr. Ohlsson play the “Emperor” was with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1993, in a program with “Epiphanies,” a major work by Berio: a concert that because of a cancellation ended up also being conducted by Berio.
Now here, in the Mostly Mozart Festival at Avery Fisher Hall on Wednesday evening, was Mr. Ohlsson playing the same concerto, with the festival orchestra conducted (more capably) by Susanna Malkki, in a program with Berio’s “Rendering,” an ingenious 1989 performing version of Schubert’s woefully incomplete 10th Symphony. The Ohlsson-Berio connection was to have continued in a Little Night Music concert afterward in the Kaplan Penthouse, but Mr. Ohlsson canceled that appearance because of an illness in his family and was replaced by Nicolas Hodges.
The “Emperor” Concerto could have been written for Mr. Ohlsson, so well does it suit his muscular technique and the sensitivity and restraint with which he deploys it. He played the work beautifully for the most part, and though he missed a few prominent notes, he more than made up for them with a solo encore: Chopin’s “Grande Valse Brillante” in E flat (Op. 18), played with utterly seductive (if probably not danceable) freedom of rhythm and meter.
Though other attempts have been made to complete Schubert’s 10th Symphony, Berio’s “Rendering” offers something both more enlightening and more entertaining. Connecting the surviving sketches with a kind of spacey orchestrational epoxy heavy on celesta, he offers a sense not only of the glories that remain but also of how much was devastatingly lost.