Seiji Ozawa – Martha Argerich
Symphony 1, Piano Concerto 1
Mito Chamber Orchestra
Martha Argerich and Seiji Ozawa have performed on stage together many times and yet, despite their long partnership, the present album is their first official audio recording together (a DVD entitled Seiji Ozawa at the Matsumoto Festival, featuring Martha Argerich as special guest star, has been released in September 2017). For its programme, two works composed by Beethoven, the Symphony no. 1 in C major and the Piano Concerto no. 1 in C major, have been chosen.
Even though they were recorded in the same location – Ibaraki, Japan – and with the same orchestra (not by chance, the Mito Chamber Orchestra of which Ozawa is currently General Director), they were not part of the same concert. The Symphony was recorded in January and the Concerto in May 2017. This said, the two works share the same energy and for this reason, not to speak of the fact that the Symphony is strictly connected to the Concerto also from a compositional point of view, their association is natural.
Symphony and Concerto were both live recorded and the energy that is usual in many live performances does not fail to appear here. Actually, if there ever was a recording that makes you forget that Beethoven was actually a moody and bad-tempered composer, this is definitely that one. Ozawa conducts this music in a way that makes its shine.
Symphony no. 1 in C major
For what concerns the First Symphony, Ozawa offers a gaudy rendition which is to enjoy to the end.
The first movement (Adagio molto, Allegro con brio) is bright and lively. After a short, soft beginning where there is already an anticipation of what will happen, Ozawa starts immediately to describe a vibrant picture. A kind of Mozartian vivacity is easily recognizable. The orchestral colours are shimmering and well blended together and the Mito Chamber Orchestra is really high-spirited.
The second movement (Andante cantabile con moto) is just a little restrained in comparison with the previous movement, but in it too it is possible to guess a rosy shade of optimism and amusement, especially in the winds. In this movement too, the orchestral palette is extremely refined and it is really a pleasure to listen how Ozawa conducts with lightness and insight and obtains such marvellous effects.
The Menuetto is more energetic and there is something feverish and unrestrained. Ozawa uses the varied timbral qualities of the instruments to make them express conflicting feelings, some more relaxed, others impetuous.
The Finale (Adagio-Allegro molto e vivace) returns to the joie de vivre of the first movement and to its wit and verve, and ends the Symphony with a glorious display of brilliance.
Overall, the Symphony no. 1 is mesmerizing for its rich colours and its harmonious spirit. Ozawa’s conduction gives prominence to the lustrous tone of Beethoven’s work in the brightest and captivating way.
Piano Concerto no. 1 in C major
After the wonderful rendition of the Symphony, the listener might think that the best part of the recording is over. For someone who has just finished to listen to it, it seems impossible that the Piano Concerto could match the fine result of the previous work – but Martha Argerich’s presence is a reason good enough not to turn off the stereo… and to be charmed once again.
The first movement (Allegro con brio) opens with a long, sumptuous orchestral introduction, to which Argerich answers with a riveting, sweet entry. Actually, the beauty of this entry gives the impression that time has suddenly stopped. After this wonderful moment, Argerich continues alternating sweetness to wit and the result is absolutely delightful. Moreover, from this point onwards the orchestra imitates the same gentle nuance of the piano.
Around the middle of the movement, the atmosphere changes and becomes more intense and sombre. At this point, Argerich gives to the silvery colours of the piano a shade which is almost “nocturnal”. After this, the Allegro con brio ends with another luminous display of technical skill.
The second movement (Largo) is much more quiet and melancholic both for the orchestra and the piano. Ozawa conducts softly and quietly, while Argerich gives prominence to the thoughtfulness and sadness of this soaring music.
The last movement (Rondo. Allegro scherzando) is the last, sparkling gem of this recording. Argerich’s technical virtuosity is enthralling and combines to perfection with Ozawa’s stamina. This piece is remarkable for its blend of shining colours and for its many feelings and emotions, which range from happiness to melancholy.
This recording is definitely a milestone, not only because it is the first album that Ozawa and Argerich have recorded together, but for their performances as well. You can really appreciate their freshness and inventiveness.
Beethoven’s music is so finely and originally performed that it seems to listen to it for the very first time.