Welcome though Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor always is, it is not
exactly a seldom performed work. Combined with Modest Musorgsky’s best-seller
Pictures at an Exhibition for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s matinee
concert last week, the result was a rather conventional program.
Arieh Vardi’s sensitive performance, however, was generous compensation. As the
mature musician that he is, he started with a moderate allegro tempo, not
letting himself be trapped into the current trend among (some) younger superstar
pianists toward sportsmanlike velocity.
Vardi savored every note with
loving care, investing each with its full value and not letting any be
swallowed. As a result, he persuasively conveyed the work’s tragic, somber mood.
Contributing new cadenzas of his own, the pianist also offered some refreshing
In the slow movement, he virtually made the piano sing,
reminding one that Mozart was also a composer of operas and lieder. In the final
movement, he respected the restraining caption on the Allegro (“fairly fast”),
emphasizing its playfulness without storming ahead.
admittedly ingenious orchestration of the Pictures should be preferred to
Musorgsky’s own piano version or to an original orchestral work is an unanswered
question, especially as there is no shortage of those, even by Ravel
Conductor David Robertson’s rendition was nevertheless immensely
impressive. The orchestra sounded uncommonly transparent despite the work’s
heavy orchestration, the abundant instrumental tone colors were attentively
highlighted and many oft-neglected but significant details were carefully
The Russian pomp and circumstance of the (non-existent) Great
Gate of Kiev forcefully and inescapably sent the audience to its well-deserved
lunch at the conclusion of the concert.