Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Leon Fleisher and Jonathan Biss: Beethoven Piano Concertos No. 2 and 3.

Mendelssohn: Overture: The Hebrides
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Jonathan Biss, piano)
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 (Jonathan Biss, piano)
Leon Fleisher, conductor

[For health reasons combined with general disinterest I departed the concert during Intermission; therefore I have no opinion on the performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3]

Occasionally there comes a concert where I am reasonably sure that my feelings towards the concert are not necessarily those of the majority of the audience. Tonight's is one such concert. 

This weekends concerts were programmed with Mitsuko Uchida as soloist. As a result of Ms. Uchida bowing out due to a thumb injury, Leion Fleisher and Jonathan Biss took up the program. While Ms. Uchda seems to have a strong following in Cleveland, I haven't been able to connect with her interpretations nor have I found the performances compelling -- so I had every intention of giving this weekend's concerts a pass until I learned of the substitution. That, somewhat surprisingly, was a sentiment held by many of the patrons I chatted with prior to the start of the concert. 

Opening with Mendelssohn's Overture to The Hebrides which had a beautiful clarity and texture, particularly a repeating motif that started in the violins and migrated through the lower strings through the first half of the piece before an impressive climax. 

I had high hopes for Messrs. Biss and Fleisher's rendition of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2. And while I felt the performance much more compelling than those with Ms. Uchida at the keyboard, I didn't connect with the first two movements at all; and while I enjoyed the third movement and observing Mr. Biss's fingerwork, the end of the piece couldn't come quickly enough. 

I spent the first few minutes of intermission weighing my reaction to the piece and my general feeling of malaise versus "throwing away" roughly half of my ticket purchase. In the end (and with an acquaintance mentioning that I "didn't look as well as usual") I elected I'd be happier not hearing another Beethoven piano concerto and after bidding new years wishes, I departed the hall.