Between Maria João Pires and Mozart, it is a story of alchemy and osmosis, we are in the evidence and the natural. But the extraordinary performance of this Lucerne evening invites us to repeat how much the Portuguese pianist achieves here the quintessence of her art. The second part, Brahms's Fourth Symphony, was a moment of pure happiness from start to finish, and even a kind of miraculous revelation of the score, as Paavo Järvi sculpts, analyzes and makes the orchestra breathe. One of those truly memorable evenings. This is the Lucerne Festival.
Concerto No. 9 in E flat major, “Jenamy”, (K. 271): between gallantry and melancholy
The “Jenamy” concerto is the emblem of Mozart's youthful genius, both gallant and amiable, yet reserving contrasts of unfathomable melancholy, notably its second movement, an Andantino in C minor, unexpected in the composer's work. Maria João Pires in Mozart is the delicacy, the velvet touch. The pianist’s entrance, on a trill in the dominant, gives way to an always perfect dialogue with the orchestra, an orchestra that is both discreet and attentive, soberly conducted by Paavo Järvi. This first movement, alternating vital force and pleasant freshness, is a pure moment of happiness. Nothing gratuitously virtuoso in this Allegro, but still elegance, and some audacity, in particular the final pirouette, reminder of the trill, followed by multiple lines in arpeggios, final bouquet springing, for the virtuoso blow, before the end. The second movement, as a deep introspection, a bouquet of trills, darker (remember that this is the first slow movement in a Mozart’s concerto using a minor key), sounds like a poignant operatic air. Maria João Pires is sovereign in this passage of sad nobility, which seems to anticipate Schubert. The long solo, after a rapid modulation in E flat major, is still traversed by this poignant and desolate melancholy, magnificently revealed by the pianist's modest and inhabited playing. The Rondo arrives, with a mischievous piano, as if freed from the sad echoes of the Andantino, anticipating Monostatos’ air from The Magic Flute. The melancholy is dissipated in this inventive movement, with whimsical tempi, full of surprises, notably a minuet in A flat, uncovered, thrilling course, with four variations accompanied by the strings. Maria João Pires draws a Watteau-like miniature, between gallant style, virtuoso, melancholy and joie de vivre. It is a triumph. During the encores, the pianist speaks to the audience to announce a tribute to Claudio Abbado, who would have celebrated his 90th birthday this year. We remember the complicity that united the two artists, this same sense of humble service to music. Maria João Pires, moved, interprets the famous Andante of Concerto No. 21 in C major (K. 467), a moment of infinite tenderness and pure magic, played with more rapidity than in the disc which brought together the two musicians with The Chamber Orchestra of Europe. A beautiful tribute to the immense Claudio who reinvented the Lucerne Festival 20 years ago.
A thrilling Fourth Symphony, very Mitteleuropa
A light entry, like cotton, a suspension of the lamentation which gives way to an obvious vigor: Paavo Järvi does not bring any kind of the Tchaikovskian sentimentalism that we sometimes hear in this symphony, and his beat alternates moments of appeasement and agitation. There is something like a waltz in this haughty, epic, martial first movement. As usual, the Estonian conductor analyzes the score to reveal all of its architectural complexity and musical intertexts. Thus, more than anywhere else, we are transported to a universe that owes Sturm und Drang to the aesthetic, just as much as it announces Dvorak. It is a Brahms of dark forests where we hear the Freischütz, then a few bars later, still in the first movement, we are surprised to hear the cantilenas of Smetana in fluvial phrases. The Lucerne Festival Orchestra offers a narrative and sappy Brahms, a Brahms of nature. In an alliance of rusticity and fervor, Schumanian colors pass (what strings!) and sometimes Beethovenian storms burst. Never had the score revealed so much its romantic sources, and its Czech anticipations, where many conductors make it a beautiful wise and classic symphony. It is tense, exciting and contrasting. The Andante moderato reveals all its legendary and narrative dimension : the theme of the horn, taken up by the woodwinds, definitively convince us of the influence of Brahms on Dvorak because we already hear in these sentences the announcement of the Cello Concerto. Everything is gentle, and even fervor, in this luminous direction, with exemplary strings. Järvi makes the orchestra sing in a smiling, poetic approach, like the welcome of beautiful autumnal rays of sunshine. The Allegro giocoso is a quasi-Scherzo, resembling a finale that Paavo Järvi performs at dizzying speed (almost equaling Bruno Walter with the New York Philharmonic), with horns that keep us in this romantic atmosphere of an autumnal forest and trumpets in very great shape. It's energetic, dry, twirling, with a few moments of fun. Järvi is shown here leaping and springing from the pulpit, like his former teacher Lenny Bernstein. The movement is powerfully irrigated with solar optimism (the key of C major is a proof!), a communicative energy that had perhaps not been risked since Ormandy at the head of The Philadelphia Orchestra. The popular and dancing dimension of this movement, without going as far as the Bruckner’s Ländler, is adorned with jovial and good-natured tones. It is a treat, finally revealed, far from certain heaviness that we hear sometimes. Here is an enjoyable Brahms that does not take itself seriously. The conductor and the orchestra are totally tamed, it is visible in the eyes. The last movement, Allegro energico e passionato revives the very Mitteleuropa color of the first two movements. Chiara Tonelli's solo flute is both moving and deep. A kind of more internalized, more tender lull, this final movement features both a variation on Bach's cantata BVW 150 ("Nach dir Herr") and a surprising reminiscence of the pilgrims' choir from Wagner's Tannhäuser, thus giving a more religious feeling. More sober, but with beautiful tempestuous and energetic moments, Paavo Järvi and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra end in style this performance of Brahms's Fourth Symphony, revealed in all its contrasting poetry. When we see Reinhold Friedrich, one of the most famous trumpeters in the orchestra, emphatically applauding the conductor, we can only accept the evidence : more than a consecration, it is a knighting in Lucerne that has just taken place for Paavo Järvi after this inspiring and inspired performance.
August 12th 2023
August 12th 2023