Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mozart and the (nearly) 80-year-old pianist

I've got tickets to the next Charlotte Concerts show: the Vienna Concert-Verein Orchestra, which comes to Halton Theatre at CPCC on Jan. 29 at 8 p.m. They're going to play my favorite lesser-known Schubert symphony (the fifth), short pieces by Franz Lehar and Johann Strauss Jr. and Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos. (It's number 10, if you're counting.)

One of the pianists is Sebastian Knauer, a German with a strong reputation. Here's a sample of his work with another chamber-sized orchestra:

And the other pianist? He's Philippe Entremont, who's now conducting the Concert-Verein -- and who'll turn 80 in June. When I was a preschooler, living in Japan in the late 1950s, my parents brought home the first classical recording I can remember hearing: Entremont's version of Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.

And now I'll hear him in person, though in a much more subdued work. He recorded this concerto live four years ago at the Iitti Music Festival in Finland, conducting and playing the second part, so I assume it's a favorite of his.

What's it like, I wonder, to spent nearly six decades at the keyboard contemplating Mozart? Do you continue to find depths in his perfectly constructed concertos? Or do you find yourself simplifying, stripping away all the excesses of a youthful player to get to the heart of the music?

I had the good fortune to see Artur Rubinstein on his last long concert tour of the United States; he came to Duke University when I was a student in the mid 1970s. I remember reading an interview at the time where he said something along these lines: "I have spent 70 years playing Chopin, trying to get rid of everything in my playing that was me and not Chopin." Perhaps Entremont might say the same about Mozart.