Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Costa Hall, Geelong
DURING his visit to Melbourne for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, American pianist Garrick Ohlsson is presenting a solid Brahms diet. Last week, he headed a subtle, muscular reading of the Piano Concerto No. 1; on Tuesday night, he is playing the Two Rhapsodies, the Handel Variations and Fugue, and collaborates with the MSO string principals in the F minor Piano Quintet.
In between, Ohlsson is involved in performances of the spacious Concerto No. 2 in B flat, its last airing on Monday night in Hamer Hall. While the first rendition of this work on Friday in Geelong's Costa Hall showed some slight cracks, not helped by some off-colour notes in the middle register of the soloist's instrument, the control and polish of this remarkable pianist impressed once more, this time displayed on an emotionally broader canvas given the work's chameleonic second movement and the rich wash of colours that emerge in the spun-out melodic wealth of the following Andante.
Tadaaki Otaka, in his final appearances as principal guest conductor, balanced the concerto with two Richard Strauss tone poems. The flamboyant Don Juan succeeded best in its most active, full-blooded passages, but the interpretation overall seemed too weighty; the slower-paced Death and Transfiguration eventually reached an eloquent, sustained peroration in its final stages - a calm, celebratory farewell to and from this talented musician.