On the 4th of November, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo (OPMC) invited the audience on a beautiful tour of "Les Ma?tres du Classicisme" with not just one performance on the program, but two. With guest conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy at the helm and guest soloists Pablo Ferrández (violoncello), and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) for the first performance in the morning, and Andreas Ottensamer (clarinet) in the afternoon, the particularly windy day filled with Haydn and Mozart simply felt like a gift.
As a storm was brewing outside of the Monte-Carlo Opera House, the first performance on Sunday morning started at 11 am. While the audience in the almost sold-out Salle Garnier was getting ready to enjoy the beautiful harmonies away from the turmoil outdoors, faint sounds of musicians warming up were heard from behind the scenes. Something new was on the program: Joseph Haydn's Ouverture in Ré Majeur, HOB.IA:4, performed for the first time in Monte-Carlo.
Composed between 1782 and 1784, this unique Ouverture instantly drew the crowd in into the world of Haydn and its playful syncopation, surprising interruptions, and revealing suspensions. The performance was brilliantly conducted by Takács-Nagy. Embodying the music with such fire and grandeur, the conductor alternated between delicate movements such as standing on his tippy-toes, to magnificent and invigorating gestures with big arm sweeps and tapping on the floor. And it was contagious: the symbiosis between the orchestra and conductor was palpable, as they moved in synchronicity like waves rolling onto the shore.
As the first soloist of the day, Pablo Ferrández shared the motion on the stage, as they performed the second piece on the program: the Concerto for Violoncello N°2, HOB. VIIB/2, OPUS 101. This finalist of the Tchaikovsky International Competition enigmatically captures the audience with his brilliant technique, intense musicality, and stage presence. Hailed by his authenticity and praised by critics as "one of the best cellists" (Rémy Louis, Diapason Magazine), the 24-year-old star continues building a bright career. His humble yet impulsive and refined way of performing was radiantly showcased during his encore when he ended with a painfully beautiful extended note and suspended silence. The tangible silence in the room was not broken til Ferrández eventually took his bow off his violoncello. Evidently, the silence was answered with a huge roar of applause. Once again this young talent showed how to engage his listeners and let them truly enjoy music.
After the rich sounds of the violoncello, it was time to experience the pleasing scores of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his Concerto for Piano N° 15, K. 450. On the piano was the multi-award-winning Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, who sat down at the piano and immediately played a few notes. Of course to the surprise of the conductor who was about to get the attention of the orchestra. Amused by the little teasing impromptu, a big smile passes between both musicians, after which they prepared to commence, for real this time.
Many pianists consider this to be one of the more difficult of Mozart's piano concertos, as it is particularly challenging by its many quick scale patterns. In a letter to his father, Mozart compared this concerto with his 16th concerto in D: "I consider them both to be concertos which make one sweat; but the B flat beats the one in D for difficulty."
Bavouzet, however, felt completely at home as his fast fingers rolled mind-blowingly over the piano, showcasing his beautiful technique and virtuosity in the reflection of the Steinway & Sons. This master on the piano executed the concerto with such poise and ease, one would never discern the extreme difficulty of the piece. Furthermore, throughout the concerto, the audience was witness to the symbiosis between the pianist and conductor, as they smiled and interacted and embraced the music. Ending his stage performance with an encore (a fast-paced Haydn piece, thus emphasizing his comfort with quick fingers), he hugged the conductor, gave the orchestra two thumbs up, and left the stage under a blanket of thunderous applause.
Last but not least on the program was Mozart's Symphony N° 35, Haffner, K. 385. Ending the morning with the Masters with an equally beautiful execution, the audience left the opera energized and satisfied, and ready to enjoy the rest of their Sunday.
To read about the second performance of the 4th of November, which included the brilliant performance of the talented Andreas Ottensamer on clarinet, please read the BWW Review: An Afternoon with the Masters of Classicism.
For more information on the upcoming performances of the Philharmonic Opera of Monte-Carlo, please visit www.opmc.mc.