Every Beethoven performance by Murray Perahia is an event, but as he launched into the Piano Concerto No 4 in G major with the London Symphony Orchestra under Bernard Haitink’s direction he had the misfortune to stumble so badly in his opening flourish that he temporarily lost his poise. But not for long: he soon reasserted dominance by the sheer beauty and authority of his playing, with the orchestra enchasing the piano as though it were a rare jewel.
In the first-movement recapitulation the conversation between soloist and orchestra – now one, now the other, now together – became tenderly reciprocal; in the Andante – once aptly likened to the dialogue between Orpheus and the Furies - the piano’s voice had a bell-like purity; the closing Rondo went at a furious pace, with Perahia making the most of both the martial and the lyrical qualities in the cadenza.
The rest of this opening concert in the LSO season was devoted to Mahler’s Symphony No 4, and in its first two movements Haitink successfully underlined the contrasts between roughness of texture and extreme euphonious sweetness. Soprano Anna Lucia Richter had the difficult job of incarnating the child in paradise, but her silvery tone chilled rather than moved us.