Lortie's Mozart with the CBC Orchestra

Date and Venue 16 March 2008 @3pm | Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at UBC

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Montreal-born Louis Lortie played his Fazioli and conducted the CBC Radio Orchestra in an all-Mozart programme including Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K. 466, the Overture to Don Giovanni, and Symphony No. 39. He has performed the complete works of Ravel in London and Montreal for the BBC and CBC, and is known for his interpration of Chopin and Beethoven.

Described by London's Daily Telegraph as “one of a half-dozen pianists worth dropping everything to hear,” Lortie is praised for the fresh perspective and individuality he brings to a deliberately broad spectrum of the keyboard canon. In his Sunday afternoon performance at an almost full house at the Chan Centre, he received a warm welcome and an accolade of bravos at curtain call.

Bill Richardson, who hosts the Sunday afternoon performances of the CBC Radio Orchestra, interviewed him onstage and asked hom what he thought of conducting and at the same time performing.. He quipped, "It's like a menage a trois: the conductor, the orchestra and the audience". He continued describing how he felt about music being a circular movement, as he conducts and plays. "The orchestra is a semi-circle, the audience is also in a semi-circle, thus completing a full circle." When asked about Mozart's compositions, he commented saying that he was still searching and trying to reach "the core" of Mozart.

Mozart has always been an enigma to many conductors. He has those sudden pauses; furthermore, there is a certain restlessness about his symphonies that to some are disturbing. I found Symphonhy 39 repetitious, with the same notes over and over again, and yet, with a difference: the same notes, yet different approaches, varied textures and colours. I thought of a child at play, as I was listening, singing notes slowly at first, then, all of a sudden, hurriedly. Playful as this symphony was meant to be: Allegro.

This Symphony was composed when he was 32, together with two other symphonies, in that prolific summer of 1788, three years before he died. I would have wanted to hear Lortie play the piano more. He only played the Piano Concerto No. 20, standing intermittently to conduct, then sitting again to play. The Overture to Don Giovanni and Symphony No. 39. were just conducted. He is a virtuoso at the piano, I must admit, his hands moving flawlessly through the keys, a musical genius indeed.

The CBC Radio Orchestra is a unique entity in that it is the only broadcast ensemble in North America, a legacy of the days before television when radio orchestras were all over the continent, as they still are in Europe. This concert was being recorded by CBC Radio Two for future broadcast on Sunday Afternoon in Concert on 105.7 FM.

© 2008 Ed Farolan