Jean-Yves Thibaudet Performs Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 at Tanglewood with Boston Symphony Orchestra

August 15, 2009
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JeanYves_ThibaudetToday I went to the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home Tanglewood to hear the Saturday morning rehearsal of Brahms’ Symphony 2 and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2. I had been planning to go to this concert for two months and was greatly looking forward to it.

I love Brahms.  My all-time favorite classical piece is Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1.  When I saw the two Brahms pieces on the BSO schedule, I asked my friend and classical pianist Jed Moss if this program was worth the 3 hour drive each way out to Lenox, Mass, and he said, “You betchya!”

As this program came highly recommended, I was anxious to hear it performed live. When I arrived at Tanglewood, to my great disappointment the concert pre-talk was NOT about Brahms but was instead about Listz, Ravel and Beethoven.  I was not happy.  After two months of anticipation and getting up at 5:30 a.m. to drive three hours to the edge of Massachusetts, I was more than annoyed…  But there was a plus.

Instead of hearing the two Brahms pieces performed by the BSO and pianist Garrick Ohlsson, conducted by Kurt Masur, I would have the opportunity to hear three other pieces, a different pianist, and I would be able to see Sir Andre Previn conduct, which is something I’ve wanted to do for the past year. What I did not expect, however, was to be completely blown away by the pianist!

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet walked on the stage, stylish in his Ed Hardy jeans and sneakers, pinstriped jacket, white t-shirt and blonde hair. He politely acknowledged the audience and breaking the silence he opened a soda can.  We all laughed. AndrePrevin

Sir Andre Previn was hidden from the audience’s view as he stood between the grand piano and the orchestra.  We couldn’t see him, but we could hear him and could see his baton waving in the air!

As Jean-Yves Thibaudet sat at the piano, his energy and good nature were apparent. He smiled warmly, appeared incredibly relaxed and comfortable, and he looked hip and young.  At 37, Thibaudet projects youth and energy, which is enticing to younger audience members.

I had to laugh, however, at the older couple sitting behind me who were complaining that “our soloist” was wearing ripped jeans – tsk tsk! It was really bothering them and they couldn’t seem to get over it.  As a younger patron, I find it refreshing to see performers in casual clothes at rehearsals; I find them more relatable.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet would be performing Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major.  As the concerto began, he seemed regal, his arms and hands flowing over the keys like grass swaying in the wind.  Within moments, the concerto exploded into one of the most intricately-played pieces I have seen or heard.  I sat there, my eyes wide in amazement, with a smirk on my face.  I truly couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Jean-Yves Thibaudet was absolutely phenomenal!

Gone was the disappointment that I would not hear Brahms; I’d hear that another day.  To watch Jean-Yves Thibaudet, in person, was a surprise and a gift!

I haven’t seen many pianists perform live, but I have had the privilege of seeing some of today’s best. EvgenyKissinThe first piano soloist I saw was Evgeny Kissin. He performed (my favorite) Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with the BSO, and I was in heaven.  I actually saw it twice!  I have seen a few other pianists perform with the BSO, but none has affected me as much as Kissin or Thibaudet.  They have such energy and charisma and they have the gift of reaching into your soul as if they were playing just for you.  It is an amazing connection to have with the music and it is rare indeed!

I listened to Saturday night’s live performance via the Web.  I wanted to hear the Liszt Piano Concerto from start to finish uninterrupted.  As Jean-Yves Thibaudet began, I visualized his regality, and then the intensity and perfection of each note played.  But I have to admit that it just isn’t the same as witnessing it in person.

When you sit in a music hall with the soloist and 50 plus orchestra members before you, you feel such a connection and joy as the music envelopes you.  To watch a pianist such as Jean-Yves Thibaudet, to see how he reacts with the conductor, orchestra and audience, it’s something you just can’t experience by listening over the Web, radio or on a CD.

It was an amazing and surprising morning out at Tanglewood.  I expected to fall in love with more of Brahms’ works, but instead developed a new love for this phenomenal pianist.  I look forward to seeing him perform again one day, just as I look forward to seeing Evgeny Kissin once again.

Here’s my one piece of advice: If you can, get out and attend the symphony.  You may just find yourself enraptured by the music, musicians and event.

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