Magnificent Beethoven from Murray Perahia and the Academy of St Martins in the Fields tonight at the Barbican in London. Beethoven Concertos n.2 and 4 in their complete concerto series together.
Starting with a riveting performance of the Coriolan Overture this magnificent complex playing without a conductor .Each individual player listening intently to the other to produce a performance of hypnotic tension.
This orchestra founded by Neville Marriner I heard many times in rehearsal in the Dukes Hall in my Academy student days. In a break from hours of practise I would listen to Brendel rehearsing Mozart with them.
Wonderful memories relived today with Murray Perahia certainly the equal of a Brendel or Serkin at the total service of the music that they have lived with and serve with total dedication.
In this hall I well remember the Mozart cycle with Serkin and Abbado and seeing Serkin returning to the auditorium to listen to Abbado conducting.
Such is the unselfish total dedication to music that comes across with the truly great performers.
And so it is tonight.
No histrionics but total command and absorbed in making music together. We the public privileged to be able to eavesdrop on this communion between such musicians.
Beethoven second concerto in such a robust performance.
Gone are the usual rather feline niceties for the rough and tumble in the true spirit of Beethoven.
The second movement in particular robust but for that even more expressive .
The communion between the questioning piano and poignant subdued string reply was even more moving.
The great cadenza in the first movement, written by Beethoven at the time of the fourth for the performances by Ries, played with all the surprising musicianship that has made this musician one of the most highly revered of our time.
I remember Serkin remarking when he was asked to listen to Perahia the young student “you told me he was good but you did not tell me how good”.
The last movement played with such joy and rhythmic ebullience it created an infectious almost party spirit.
The sublime fourth concerto given a truly masterly interpretation that caught not only the audience by surprise but above all the musicians themselves.
A spontaneous standing ovation and a general embarrassment amongst the musicians exhausted,exhilarated and totally overwhelmed that they had produced such a performance.
Perahia conducting where necessary from the keyboard but in the Orphean declarations of the orchestra in the second movement there were no gestures from Perahia to the orchestra as he beseeched them from his wonderfully moving replies from the keyboard.
In the first movement such real rhythmic passion ,almost frenzy, that I have not seen in this concerto since the memorable performances of Perahias mentor Rudolf Serkin. Combined with such melting moments of sublime poetry as in the gentle unfolding at the end of the cadenza and the truly magical question and answer between the orchestra leading to such a passionate vehemently final two chords.
The last movement Rondo theme thrown off with a little too much frivolousness for my taste but how can one complain when it was played with such overwhelming conviction.
Perfection can never be totally satisfying but it can certainly be sublime as it certainly was tonight.
Much looking forward to Murray Perahias “Hammerklavier” in Rome on the 6th March. The eternal city does not know what is awaiting its lucky inhabitants.
We who heard it in this very hall a while back know that we are in the presence of a true master.