Dominik Winterling, the Royal Concertegebouw Orchestra's managing director, welcomed the attending public (425 persons) at the first concert in a Dutch pilot project, commenting that this performance was sold out within ten minutes and that he hopes that this will be the start of a return to normality. Elbow bumps with soloist and conductor followed as the camera panned to the well-spaced musicians on the stage of the Concertgebouw's Main Hall.

Paavo Järvi, Víkingur Ólafsson and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra... and audience
© Milgaro Elstak

The first work performed was Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 24 in C minor, K491, marking Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson's debut both with the Concertgebouw and also working with Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi. It is the almost passionate dialogue between the soloist and pianist, especially in the first movement, which may contribute to its attribution as Mozart's best piano concerto. Ólafsson indulged in this dramatic mystery, followed by the contemplative Larghetto of the second movement and ending up at the chromatic, cascading dance of the last movement. He did not indulge in pianistic showmanship, but rather an elegant and sensitive interpretation with the emphasis on producing a harmonious whole with the orchestra. At the end, Ólafsson referred to the curfews in place and not wanting to break any laws, so he would only play one encore – the Andante from Bach's Organ Sonata no. 4 in E minor, BWV 528, transcribed for piano. This emotive movement showed his deep love and understanding of the works of a composer who is clearly close to his heart.

Paavo Järvi conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
© Milgaro Elstak

In the second half of this concert without an interval, Järvi conducted Robert Schumann's ever-popular Symphony no. 3 flat in E major, “Rhenish”, in five movements. The composer's relationship to the Rhine was ambivalent – he himself wrote that he spent some of his happiest moments on its shores, only to then attempt suicide by throwing himself into its waters. The symphony's nickname was given it by Schumann's biographer Wilhelm J. von Wasielewski and there is absolutely no denying that the opening represents the epitome of joie de vivre, reflecting a particularly happy period in Schumann's life and expressing the proverbial jolly nature of the people living in the region.

Paavo Järvi conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
© Milgaro Elstak

Järvi relished the exuberance of this first movement as he worked with the winds to create interesting accents. In the second movement subtitled Scherzo, he stressed the polyphony of the string writing as few other conductors do; the cello part suddenly reappears with the theme to great effect. The third movement (Nicht schnell) followed with great sensitivity, with underlying soulful clarinet solos and pleasantly cautious strings. An overly hurried progression in the fourth movement, entitled Feierlich (festive) somewhat diminished the impact of the horns and trombones at the beginning, but prepared the way for the march-like finale, without causing too hard a break between the sacred and exuberantly cheerful character traits. The great arc of suspense from beginning to end was maintained in any case, as the last movement Lebhaft (lively) unfolded, expressing optimism and hope with a very upbeat tempo by Järvi... even to his impish smile at the finale. The pleasure of the excellent musicians and Järvi at performing for a live audience again was evident and the outstanding acoustics of the hall were even transmitted onto the small screen.


This performance was reviewed from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's live video stream

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