Martha Argerich, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the L.A. Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2009
It takes a lot to upstage the members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
on their home turf, but this weekend has one of the performers who can do it. The soloist is piano great Martha Argerich who is on a rare tour of the West Coast, which I saw on Friday. Her legend has been only enhanced by her acknowledged disdain for performing in public and her history of cancellations for health and other reasons. She got the requisite legion of rabid fans who were on hand for ovations she had to bring to an end by pulling the orchestra off stage. And to boot, this weekend's appearances are especially a treat considering that on this tour she’s playing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, a work she has recorded twice and is closely associated with. And, yes, the performance was indeed that good. It was absolutely riveting. I can’t recall the last time I saw a performer make such intensity look so casual and off-hand. As my friend Howard noted, it was almost as if the whole thing was improvised.
But Argerich was not the only star on the program. The conductor for the evening was the young Canadian Yannick Nézet-Séguin who was clearly working as a collaborator in the fullest sense. The orchestra was crisp and forceful coming to Argerich at every turn. YNS even went so far as to perform alongside Argerich in the first of her two encores, a selection from Ravel's Mother Goose arranged for four hands on piano. Dressed in a thin tie and black suit with the tuxedoed orchestra, he looked like some latter-day Elvis Costello or perhaps a young Bob Odenkirk. YNS has scored some big assignments on the international stage this year after taking the helm of the Rotterdam Philharmonic and will make his Metropolitan Opera debut on New Year’s Eve conducting their new production of Carmen
with Angela Gheorghiu. If his handling of the French works on this program were any indication, Ms. Gheorghiu may not be the big story of that evening. He’s clearly got a handle on both the control and dynamics. Nowhere did the orchestra sound tepid or hesitant. In the opening piece, Ravel’s La Valse
and the closing 5th Symphony of Shostakovich, YNS delivered the "delicate" and the "sweeping" with equal concern and real attention to detail. There are two more shows on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, but Sunday is already sold out so act fast.
Labels: LA Philharmonic 08/09