Hélène Grimaud Excels in Brahms After a Reminder of the Much-Missed Jonathan HarveyJanuary 27, 2014 United Kingdom Brahms, Harvey Hélène Grimaud (piano); Philharmonia Orchestra, Andris Nelsons (conductor), Royal Festival Hall, London, 23.1.2014 (CC) Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83 Symphony No. 4 in E, Op. 98 Jonathan Harvey: Wheel of Emptiness Scena Hae-Sun Kang (violin),Philharmonia Ensemble, Antony Hermus (director) The second concert this evening was part of Andris Nelsons' Brahms Cycle with the Philharmonia and it also enabled us to hear both of the Brahms piano concertos within the space of a few days. Yulianna Avdeeva had given a stimulating performance of the First with the London Philharmonic; here was Hélène Grimaud in the Second. Grimaud's performances have been somewhat hit-and-miss in the past, so it was good to encounter her on top form. There was a level of maturity to her playing and a depth of sound that made this a very convincing reading indeed. Of course, Grimaud has recorded the two Brahms concertos with Nelsons for DG ( review) so their level of attunement should not come as too great a surprise. Grimaud played everything with consummate ease and a great deal of dignity, judging the projection of lines perfectly. She was never more glorious than in the finale, her gorgeous staccato pure joy. Technically, Grimaud's control was awe-inspiring. And that she can deliver a reading of such depth is impressive indeed. The orchestra was not quite up to her standard, the opening horn solo rather careful and the cello solo for the third rather over-egged with vibrato. But Nelsons allowed some subtle string portamenti in the second movement, to good effect, and in terms of ensemble soloist and conductor clearly enjoyed good rapport. The second half was Brahms' Fourth Symphony in a performance that, if Nelsons' gesticulations and swayings were to be believed, would be among the greats.
The Classical Review, September 19, 2023