STUTTGART CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
BOCCHERINI/ MOZART/ MENDELSSOHN/ HAYDN
PIANIST OVERCOMES CHALLENGES, PERFORMS WITH
STUTTGART CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
By Lawrence Budmen
After establishing a formidable international reputation, pianist Leon Fleisher developed neurological problems in his right hand that interrupted his career for more than three decades. Limiting his performances to the left hand piano repertoire, Fleisher turned to conducting and teaching. In recent years he has returned to playing two hand piano scores as a result of successful new medical treatments. On Tuesday Fleisher took center stage at the Kravis Center as both conductor and soloist with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.
Mozartís Piano Concerto No.12 in A Major is the most popular of the composerís early works in that genre. Despite a few missed runs, Fleisherís playing was strong and secure if somewhat cautious. His right hand seemed to command reserves of power. Fleisher remains a superb classical stylist whose elegant sense of phrase and shape is never mannered.
In the central Andante, Fleisher (a pupil of Artur Schnabel) found Beethovenesque profundity beneath the musicís frothy surface. Some ragged wind attacks (and a particularly unreliable principal oboe) intruded on that movementís magical piano-orchestral diaologue. For most of the concerto, Fleisher wove the instrumental strands with the intimacy and spontaneity of chamber music.
Fleisherís baton technique is of the minimalist variety, eschewing attention grabbing theatrics. His superior musicianship puts primary emphasis on the composerís text rather than trying to overtly impose his own interpretive agenda on a score. Fleisherís only misstep was an overly stodgy account of Mendelssohní s String Symphony No.10 that slighted the composerís youthful high spirits.
Two Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) symphonies from the classical era formed the concertís attractive bookends. For all its rococo embroidery, Luigi Boccheriniís Symphony in D minor (La Casa Del Diavolo Ė The Devilís House) remains the work of a minor craftsman. Fleisher brought agitated drama to the finale, a showcase for the lovely, smoothly articulated Stuttgart strings.
Haydnís unique Symphony No.45 in F-sharp minor (Farewell) is a work of genius. When the composerís employer Prince Estherhazy relocated his court to a remote palace for an extended period, the members of the royal orchestra longed to return to their families. Instead of concluding his symphonies with the usual gallant Allegro, Haydn penned an Adagio in which the musicians gradually leave the stage until only two violins are left. (The Prince got the message and returned to his main residence.)
The Stuttgart musicians deftly executed this early piece of ďperformance artĒ to the amusement of the Kravis audience Fleisher led a supple, tightly energized reading of this symphonic gem, capturing the humor beneath the courtly grace of the Minuet.