Pianist von Oeyen joined Villaume and the orchestra after intermission—and at the opposite end of the romantic era—for the famously passionate and infamously difficult Piano Concerto No. 3 of Rachmaninoff. Even in that deceptively serene opening passage, von Oeyen and Villaume shared an irresistible intensity created via carefully shaped phrasing and dynamic give-and-take and fairly pronounced rubato.
The close musical partnership brought to mind the similar interplay between great conductors and great singers in the operatic works of Rachmaninoff’s contemporary Puccini. Along with his flawless technique on the keyboard, von Oeyen used damper pedal imaginatively and effectively throughout—sometimes strikingly, as with the light cloud he brushed across the descending arpeggio leading into the final cadenza of the first movement. He likewise demonstrated and pointed up the sometimes overlooked underlying baroque counterpoint typical of Rachmaninoff’s orchestral scores, finding the scraps of fugues and other contrapuntal devices lurking within his rich romantic textures.
Together, conductor and pianist created the inexorable tidal pull of the final movement, landing on the cathartic final phrase with that combination of surprise and inevitability—in this performance, tinged with elegance—that this concerto evokes when all elements are in place.