Review, Jan 29, 2005
Entremont proves he's a consummate Mozartean, with piano as podium, too[/b]
Seattle Times music critic
If Mozart's birthday were a national holiday (and it should be), it would be hard to think of a more apt celebration than the one staged Thursday evening by pianist/conductor Philippe Entremont and the Seattle Symphony.
On the evening of Mozart's 249th birthday, Entremont proved again that he is a Mozartean who can stand with the best of them. The small classical-size orchestra might not represent the symphony at top strength: Half of the musicians are currently playing in Seattle Opera's "Manon Lescaut," and of those assembled in Benaroya Hall, about half of the wind players weren't regular orchestra members.
But a first-rate guest conductor will always energize players, and that's exactly what happened. The performance found the strings in particularly fine shape, playing with graceful, easy phrasing and considerable accuracy in the opening work, two movements of the Ballet Music from Mozart's opera "Idomeneo."
Entremont's performance of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor (K.466), which he led from the keyboard, did not sound like a compromise between the soloist and conducting responsibilities, as is so often the case with player/conductors. Entremont did not neglect the orchestra as he drew gorgeous sounds from the keyboard in one of the greatest of all concerti.
The first-movement cadenza (composed by Beethoven) was full of spirit, with spectacular runs up and down the keyboard, but Entremont has always scored his greatest points through subtlety. In the second movement, the solo line was so silky and soft that it made you listen more intently.
Elsewhere, the playing flowed with a liquid grace, but also rose to impassioned eloquence (particularly in the pianist's own last-movement cadenza).
An early Schubert symphony (No. 2) and Schubert's Overture in D Major (D.556) followed, both played with an effortless lightness and unusually good ensemble (as well as excellent woodwind solos). Entremont coaxed a beautiful sound out of the strings in the symphony's second movement, reshaping the theme as it was passed among the various sections of the orchestra. The final Presto movement was fleet and accurate, speedy but unhurried. This is only Entremont's second appearance in Seattle (his debut was last January); tonight's repeat performance offers a chance to hear a Mozartean master at work.
Melinda Bargreen: firstname.lastname@example.org