The Piano Concerto in G major by Maurice Ravel is a super rewarding composition, provided you have a great soloist. It represents the French spirit in crystalline form; the lyrical movement never slips into sentimentality and long phrases sparkle with wit and virtuosity.
The soloist of the evening, 36-year-old American of German and Dutch origin, Andrew von Oeyen, has had a brilliant virtuoso career for ten years. He has performed with leading American orchestras and around the world. He received his training at Columbia University, The Juilliard School and elsewhere, but his skill is primarily drawn from his extraordinary talent. He entered the stage casually in a velvet jacket and black open-necked shirt. He is more interested in deep artistry than “formal” appearance. Sitting calmly at the keyboard, he gave way to maximum possible concentration and technical insight that allowed him to give meaning to every detail, both in short phrases and in overall structure. His melodic differentiation ranging from pianissimo to mezzopiano was breathtaking. Pianist and conductor and orchestra were in total symbiosis.
Pianists have probably noticed a suppleness of the hands that allowed the greatest coloring and control of sound, inside the keys. His own transcription of Massenet’s “Meditation” from Thaïs, played as an encore, was a brillant lesson in avoiding stiffness or verticality; he created an exclusively horizontal line of singing without losing any rhythmic pulse. At times, one could also notice a deliberate and sophisticated dissociation of the two hands. Three-seconds of absolute silence before the explosion of applause made clear that he managed to enthrall the audience. His smile is not advertising for toothpaste; it is instead genuine and normal. This is an exceptional and unique artist.