16 Sep

I had the great privilege this evening of participating in a very Viennese event–a concert in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein. It wasn’t just any concert. It was a reunion of two exceptional Italian, or more precisely Milanese, musicians, Claudio Abbado and Maurizio Pollini, with two of the greatest Austrian composers on the program, Mozart and Bruckner (Mozart’s Piano Concerto in G major and the Viennese version of Bruckner’s Symphony Nr. in C minor). The audience consisted of well-dressed, but not necessarily well-heeled, Viennese and a mixture of others–the usual music students in standing room, the Asian (no longer exclusively Japanese) tour groups, diplomats, politicians, and elderly concert goers with a lifetime of such experiences and in some cases grandchildren to ensure a future of concert going in this city of music.

The Mozart was first. It lacked some clarity (perhaps Pollini was playing a Bösendorfer instead of a Steinway?) but was tenderly and fervently played, and was beautiful. The Bruckner was almost overwhelming, in a wonderful way. Like the ocean it had many moods and paces, great calm and small waves and then overpowering tidal waves of sound, concentration and energy. The orchestra (the Lucerne Festival Orchestra) got better and better, swept up in the music they were making. I think they’ll forgive me for not mentioning them until now as they themselves repeatedly refused to stand for applause, partly sensing that the audience had come to pay tribute to and enjoy once again two greatly loved and respected musicians and apparently also wishing themselves to honor those great musicians.

The applause after each piece was as overwhelming as the most intense moments of the Bruckner, expressing gratitude and recognition not only for the wonderful performances this evening but also for two lifetimes of exceptional music making–although  the two gentlemen (70 and above) themselves would almost certainly say, “Not yet a lifetime.”


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