Much ado about PIANO!

10 May 2017
Naomi Peters

Naomi Peters



I arrived to the first rehearsal in Dortmund with questions: on our stand, Chopin's two piano concertos, Pletnev Edition. What was this arrangement about? Not about some minor dynamic marks or articulation changes; no, there were huge changes in instrumentation, transparency, extra lines, lines taken over by other instruments. We found out that there is a doubt that the orchestra score is actually written by Chopin himself; apparently he didn't care as much about the orchestra part as about the piano part.

Although he knew what colours he wanted as he described in letters to his youth friend, for instance about the slow movement of the second concerto, which had to sound like dreaming away in the moonlight of a spring night and therefore the accompaniment is with mutes. I will strongly remember the slow movements of both concertos, we had to play so softly, tenderly and flexibly: our soloist Daniil Trifonov took everyone into another world, so refined, poetic and free...

Anyway, apart from arranging the score, Mikhail Pletnev also unified the instrumentation of both concertos. Our trombone players could stay at home this time.

It was special to have Pletnev himself conducting this project. Obviously he is a man with a big history and knowledge (being an excellent pianist and composer himself, knowing these concertos inside out); sometimes it even seemed that he was leading the orchestra by making the gesture of playing a chord on the piano.

We started to work immediately and intensively on the two concertos for a recording with Deutsche Grammophon. By the time we performed in concerts we were so used to all the rubati and to the "Russian team", we found a way where the pianist had all the freedom to carry everybody away in his amazing virtuosic and refined world. Long standing ovations are quite rare in Germany, and we received them in both German concerts on this project. Trifonov was begged to play at least two encores every time; he played among others Chopin's famous Fantasie-Impromptu, during which the orchestra became part of the audience and we could just listen and enjoy his impressively passionate and also so delicate and intimate playing.

Our first concert was the final concert of the Heidelberg Spring Festival. What a beautiful town, which we unfortunately could only shortly enjoy during the nice walk along the river from our hotel to the beautiful old city hall. After the concert there was a reception together with our so appreciative, great audience: naturally the audience and musicians were eating, drinking, talking and sharing this special evening together. Upstairs there was a DJ who didn't know which music to play for so many different generations together, but in the end she made everyone present dance!

For the second concert we returned to Dortmund where we had already recorded. Dortmund, where we perform regularly, feels good in a sense that people know how to get around, where to eat the "Mittagsmenü" with friends in the Vietnamese restaurant around the corner and meet most of the orchestra again for a last drink in the local pub across the road.

Small things make a big difference in the experience of the day: directly after the early evening concert we all got a nice cold beer to celebrate the finish of the intensive work (recording and performing) in Dortmund!

In this perspective I am also thinking of all the text messages (with changes/schedules/announcements) we were getting during all the bus trips or flights from our tour manager Hélène Delanglez written in her style: always with a sense of humor which makes you smile. Whatever situation we are in we should never lose our sense of humour!

Our last concert was in Torino. In Lingotto, the famous Fiat factory turned by Renzo Piano into a centre of commerce, arts and conferences. An architect rebuilding within an existing structure of the late architect. Like the musician arranging concertos of the late composer but keeping the essence which comes alive and flourishes by the performer…

To arrive and be in Torino, in Italy with the sunshine, hearing the music of the language around you, eating delicious food and seeing the Alps between the beautiful streets and squares of the town, it makes you feel like another person.

We finished this special week which was "much ado about piano" with prosecco in celebration of a wonderful new member of MCO, the violinist Anna Matz: the journey will continue!