Concertos by Mozart
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
In an interview published here last March, I asked Fazil Say about his tendency to hum along as he played the piano. Back then, Say contended that he is aware of this tendency, and consciously tries to make his humming inaudible.
This evening, however, one could hear Say's humming throughout the concert hall, and the Turkish born pianist displayed several other idiosyncrasies as well. Most notable of these were his excessive body movements, his ever-gesturing left hand, and his habit of tilting sideways while playing more sentimental stanzas. At times, these gesticulations seemed exaggerated and even artificial.
But it was still a glorious evening for Say. Being the absolute pivot of this unorthodox program, he played three of Mozart's most revered piano concerts: Nos. 12, 21, and 23. With the orchestra reduced to a chamber volume and led by an unknown conductor who remained in the shadows, the stage was all Say's. Apart from his circus-like mannerisms and irritating humming, he dazzled and enchanted. Despite a minor error on the final movement of no. 23, he displayed an extraordinary array of musical wizardry.
Nimble and creative, Say gave a concert not soon to be forgotten. This is especially true of his reading for no. 21, which was also the only concerto he played by heart. Say's innovative cadenzas and fresh insights made this particular piece the evening's highlight.