Prom 74: Vienna Philharmonic, Emanuel Ax, Michael Tilson Thomas: Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven
Second night of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras in this year Proms. This time, totally Viennese repertoire.
Concert opened with Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn that BBC called “Variations on the St Anthony Chorale” because they are very smart and follow all the musicological criteria, not that they are snobs, not at all. Perfect performance, with a superb Michael Tilson Thomas emphasizing the more expressive and joyful parts of the score as a perfect introduction for it was coming next.
When Emanuel Ax came into stage I could only think on this image:
When I was a child I used to spend summer holidays with at my uncle’s house in the beach. He had an immense (for my standards at that time) classical music CD collection. But there was a CD that was always out of the shelves: Beethoven cello sonatas by Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax. I spent a lot of years asking myself is that CD was there just to be close hand because my uncle was listening to it every day. Years later, when I became interested in classical music I always though of Emanuel Ax as a guy “who joyfully plays chamber music with friends”. And that was totally this Mozart 14th piano concerto: a chamber-like version played among friends. Perfect dialog between soloist and orchestra to bring us a very bright experience. Ax has this kind of perfect technique which makes you forget about the technique and focus on expression.
And then the Beethoven. Oh my god. Here Michael Tilson Thomas chose an outgoing and hedonistic approach to the 7th symphony, full of dancing (he himself was dancing on the podium!). But it was not a gratuitous exhibition of joy, no. He took care of every single detail, taking advantage of the amazing capability of the VPO to make every single detail in the score relevant and perfectly balances across all the orchestral layers. A orgy of beauty and power. I love MTT. Really I do.