Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest at the Concertgebouw

Alexei Volodin, piano, delivered a brilliant performance of Beethoven Fourth concerto, thrilling the Concertgebouw audience but eclipsing the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest. The Amsterdam orchestra came back after the interval with a Technicolor vision of the high Alps in the symphony by Richard Strauss.

Franz Liszt could have been playing the Steinway at the Concertgebouw this evening so brilliant was the piano work, in fact it was Alexei Volodin who dominated the stage of the Concertgebouw for Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. A hesitant start had Marc Albrecht and the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest on the defensive right from the first page. Alexei Volodin outshone with pace, accuracy and the detail of his interpretation. His mastery of the scope Beethoven’s writing and understanding of the detail of the lines together with the flexibility and suppleness of his interpretation simply outclassed the orchestra.  Poor passing between soloist and orchestra added to the orchestra’s misery. Alexei Volodin played one of the most brilliant and extended cadenzas available for the first movement, the orchestra picking up limply following the customary trills.

The orchestra regained some ground in the dark and brooding middle movement but the soloist had the initiative right from the start of the Rondo - Vivace finale. By the last pages of the concerto, when the result was settled (home orchestra 0, visiting soloist 3) there was a final gesture of reconciliation between soloist and conductor with eye lines exchanged between Marc Albrecht and Alexei Volodin as the piano and orchestra traded chords on the final pages. No extra time required and the audience didn’t get an encore.

Despite the first half rout by the visiting soloist, Marc Albrecht roused the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest to a majestic performance of Richard Strauss’ Eine Alpensinfonie, op. 64. The composer’s composition of 1915 demands 125 players, filling the elevated platform of the Concertgebouw. The percussion, and in particular the lady player of the mechanical Aerophon wind machine seemd tightly squeezed on the upper steps of the paltform; it was almost impossible to see the organ player.

No matter, the orchestra gave us a detailed and majestic impression of a day’s hiking in the Alps. As well as the individual virtuosity, this was a performance true to the score and not relying on any particular recorded interpretation. We had energetic corbels, a particularly sparkling brook, a view of Alpine grandeur from the peak and a scary crevasse on the glacier, all rendered in the musical equivalent of Technicolor. It was as though the Alps look even more majestic viewed from the flat landscape and unremitting greyness of Holland in March.

Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, op. 58
R. Strauss - Eine Alpensinfonie, op. 64
Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest

Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest
Marc Albrecht - conductor
Alexei Volodin - piano