Just looking at tonight’s line up no doubt this was going to be a special night – and there was no disappointment! Simply magnificent!
The concert started off with Joerg Widmanns’s Con brio in a revised version. Music of contemporary composers can be a hit and miss… However, this particular piece was actually rather pleasant. A few interesting noises going on in the woodwind section which gave it a bit of an edge but there were some beautiful melodies going on. The timpanist deserves a special mention – he was tickling the most delicate and fascinating noises out of his timpani and it was very impressive to watch! When do you see a timpanist have 10 pages of score for an 11 minute piece of music?!? Talking of scores – it was also the only piece of music Barenboim used his for conducting.
The second item on the programme was the piece de resistance – Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No 1 in E flat major. Soloist of the night was Martha Argerich. What a performance! As she walked on stage she looked very frail. Barenboim waited in the side for Martha to take the applause before they started the concert though she kept looking for him waiting for him to be there on stage with her. Once she sat down she was much more comfortable and Barenboim so close to her again she felt so much more at ease. The whole concerto was just magnificent! The orchestra so finely in tune with Barenboim and Argerich. Both have known each other for years and you could just feel that unique connection between them. Argerich suffers from extreme stage fright, even though she’s been playing for such a long time, yet with the keys under her fingers she was in her element. The electric atmosphere was just fascinating and you could just indulge yourself into the beauty of the moment. The tension in the hall was palatable – you could have heard a pin drop – it was spine tingling. The applause following was just rapturous – the audience went wild! As Martha was leaving the stage she did look very fragile again but was soaking in the atmosphere as well. Barenboim and Argerich gave an encore – seemingly a little Schubert – for four hands on the piano with Michael Barenboim turning the pages. The little piece was just perfect and so beautifully performed – it felt like you were sitting in your living room and they were just playing for you. Though Michael, Daniel’s son, got himself into a pit of a pickle: first he missed one page turn and then as everybody was taking their bows he basically refused to get up and take his bow – Daniel just tapped his finger against his forehead – a bit of a banter going on between the two of them which was so refreshing to watch.
The second half saw the full force of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra on stage for some Wagner; overture to Tannhaeuser, three excerpts from Goetterdaemmerung and the ouverture to Meistersinger von Nuernberg. Normally I am a little anti Wagner as part of a concert as it was meant to be on stage with soloists and everything else. However, on this occasion nothing else was required. The excerpts were chosen very wisely and so beautifully played that you could forget that they were part of a Gesamtkunstwerk. The brass and woodwind sections were well on top of their game.
I have seen performance of the orchestra before on TV but it was the first time that I saw them live. The unity amongst this very unique is remarkable! Barenboim has such a warm aura and presence – almost like a father to all musicians. He was so proud of his orchestra and made sure everybody got the applause they deserved – and the musician of the night, no doubt, was the triangle player! I don’t think I have never seen that much use of a triangle in any concert!
This concert was definitely one of my top 3 concerts of the season and boy was it good! A very memorable evening with some fascinating and groundbreaking musicians. Hopefully there will be chance to see a few more of those concerts…