Pianist Martha Argerich and the Capucon brothers provided a sympathetically compatible dialogue with the Philadelphia Orchestra under conductor Charles Dutoit Friday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Argerich, violinist Renaud and cellist Gautier often perform together and that familiarity worked wonders for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C Major (1808). The piece is a rarity for its combination and is a synthesis of virtuosic demands for the strings supported by a fairly tame piano part.
In each of the three movements, the soloists strongly stated their themes with clear phrasing and rich tones. Argerich, one of the most naturally musical players around, added a brusque robustness to her tone and strong accents that balanced the more direct approach the Capucons and the orchestra used.
Beethoven gave substantial parts to the three soloists. Sometimes there was great lyricism and other times there was plenty of fire. The Capucons vested their parts with all the intensity they could muster, while Argerich supported with a few well-placed passages. Because the Capucons had memorized large sections of their parts, they had greater spontaneity to interact with each other. Balances were never a problem — Beethoven took care of that — yet Dutoit still kept a tight rein. The final coda was exceptionally fast and virtuosic, which lent a kind of charm to the work. The crowd, which was relatively small probably because it was the opening night ceremony at the Olympics, loved it and gave everyone a standing ovation and several curtain calls.
2 by berlioz
Next season the orchestra will focus on the music of Hector Berlioz and Dutoit chose two of his works, which spotlighted the orchestra’s ever-amazing ability to change its sound as well as the fluid lines and rich tones of principal violist Choong-Jin Chang.
Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival Overture,” which opened the program, was wonderfully bright and cheery with lots of reds, greens and yellows splattered about the excellent orchestration.
In the descriptive four movements of “Harold in Italy” with Chang as soloist, everyone was exuberant across the sometimes haunting lyricism or the splashy electric blue, full-volume orchestra. Compared to the Beethoven, the orchestra’s sound was tighter, brighter and edged — perfect.
Dutoit showed marvelous agility as he constantly shifted gears interpretively or with the many tempos.
Tonight’s concert of Bartok, Beethoven and Brahms will feature pianist Emanuel Ax.