Six of Mozart’s piano concertos are being performed at the Proms this year, and despite their seeming simplicity they really do sort out the men (and women) from the boys.
Last week, with a cloth-ear for the poetry and a relentlessly leaden touch, David Fray murdered Concerto No 23; the cadenza he chose to play (by Paul Badura-Skoda) was clever but laborious, and only served to drag things down further.
Fray should have been frogmarched back to hear what magic Maria Joao Pires made out of the K488 concerto in A major two days later.
With spirited support from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Bernard Haitink’s direction, Pires’s performance was flawless and serene. There was a bloom on her notes as she announced the opening theme, her articulation was pellucid, and her passage-work delicately expressive. Her solos in the plangently lilting Adagio seemed to float in space, and the right-hand runs in the finale were pearlised. The cadenza she played was Mozart’s own, nothing tricksy, just a gentle reinforcement of what had gone before. Fray’s audience had gladly let him go without an encore; Pires didn’t play one either, to the evident disappointment of her fans. Haitink and the COE concluded the evening with a majestic account of Schubert’s ‘Great’ C major symphony.