Monday, 31 August 2015

28 August, 2015 BBC Prom 57 Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Haitink, Maria João Pires *****

It’s not often one sees a professional orchestra, not just applauding their conductor at the end of a performance but stamping their feet and cheering, but such is the respect and affection for Bernard Haitink amongst musicians the world over that the Chamber Orchestra of Europe who had pulled out all the stops and delivered one of the best accounts of the Schubert Great C Major I have ever heard, knew it was special. The grand old man of European music is 86 so one wasn’t surprised to see a stool placed on the podium. Apart from a brief sit down between movements he didn’t need it, as when he began to wield his baton the years just seemed to melt away and there was the Haitink we’ve known and loved for what seems like ever – surely one of the greatest conductors of the modern era.

And if that wasn’t enough, we had another icon of European classical music – the sublime Maria João Pires with another of those suave Mozart piano concertos written contemporaneously with the composition of the Marriage of Figaro featuring clarinets instead of oboes. This time it was No 23 in A (K488). If I were only allowed to listen to one pianist for the the rest of my life I would have to choose Maria João Pires. She is such a complete artist, a real pianist’s pianist and her range is impressive. There is hardly a composer that she cannot give a definite performance of. Her account of the second movement was heart-meltingly beautiful.

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