Disclaimer: I don’t know anything at all about music. I don’t even know what I like.
Last night we went to an Australian Chamber Orchestra Beethoven 4 concert at Angel Place. I went mostly for the company, I confess, but I ended up enjoying myself hugely. The first piece was Testament by Brett Dean, a Brisbane born composer: I’d had transport troubles so slipped into my seat without a chance to read the program, so the first whisper on the snare drum (I think) caught me off guard, and I stayed of guard for the whole exhilarating tinnitus-dominated piece. I didn’t have the tinnitus thought until I read the program notes, where we’re told this was the intention, but I certainly got the effect, so that when sweet melodies emerged from the ‘glassy noise that seems to be losing its grip on sound’ is fabulously moving. After interval, we had Beethoven’s fourth symphony, which was wonderful.
But it was the second part of the pre-interval program that thrilled me – Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto, with Croatian Dejan Lazic on the piano. He was a complete revelation: flamboyant as you’ve never seen unless in a Warner Brothers caricature of a concert pianist, he had vampirish pallor and sleeked back hair, at times hunched Igor-like over the keyboard, or mouthing the notes like a genius baboon. He looked as if he was making it up as he went along, playing back-and-forth with the orchestra, leaping from intricate exhibitionism to sweet contemplation in a moment, raising his left hand in limp-wristed command to the orchestra, turning to the leader (Richard Tognetti – not exactly a bland presence himself) as if to ask permission to stop for a moment. He inhabited the music. Or maybe he inhabited the ghost of Beethoven. At one stage in the first movement, I laughed out loud, which I only realised because the woman in front of me turned around and – thank God! – smiled with broad fellow feeling. At the end, when he thanked us for the applause, I was almost surprised that he was capable of human speech.
I found this on YouTube, where he’s playing some Beethoven with cellist Pieter Wispelwey. You get at least some idea of his style.