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Philharmonia Orchestra, Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Brighton, May 22
If the upright stance of cellists tend to make them look like happy puppets, the width, low position and technical challenges of the keyboard can make pianists sway and swoop like shamans possessed by ancestral spirits.
Alas, the spirit that inhabited Piotr Anderszewski at the Dome on the last Friday of the Festival was not Mozart.
Given that Anderszewski is a man of the moment and that Esa-Pekka Salonen was conducting the Philharmonia, their take on Mozart’s piano concerto No18 was oddly earthbound.
But Salonen amply redressed the balance in the second half with a shattering performance of Mahler’s Sixth. From the first note of the psychotic march that opens this massive work it was simply right.
The closing concert of last year’s festival conquered the technical challenges of the 2nd but Salonen made a composer famously terrified of death fully alive again in all his weirdness. His control of this insanity was perfect: He cupped one hand above his head to conjure a glorious climax and brought both arms crisply to his sides at the end of the first movement to bring instant silence.
Mahler’s magic orchestration that makes opposing themes grow out of each became truly alchemical under his control.
He Semtexed the teasing hint of Tchaikovsky in the second movement, coaxed a gorgeous string sound in the sadly beautiful andante and brought a terrifying intensity to the epic final movement that’s all Hollywood right up until the clipped and muted last moments when the bad guys seem to win.
Extraordinary – a festival highlight.
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