There was nothing routine about the Schumann concerto. Hélène Grimaud is charismatic and at times wayward. On this occasion she produced a performance nothing short of inspired, far better than her Rachmaninov with the LPO last year, and every bit the equal of the Beethoven Fourth Concerto at the Proms, which took place on 9/11 itself. Grimaud made us see the concerto as if it were a song with orchestral accompaniment, an identity that suits the work and Schumann very well, and which gave full rein to Grimauds own wilfulness. In the first movement, her lyrical passagework was more successful than the sometimes splashy, harsh or unvaried forte chord portions. She played the cadenza boldly, passionately, as if in one endless breath from this moment the concerto took wing.
The dialogue between soloist and orchestra in the Intermezzo was well judged, and at its ending Grimaud conjured a really magical pianissimo tone, as Dohnányi perfectly staged the transition into the Finale. Apart from the initial flourish here, Grimaud played with precision and accuracy, with deep feeling as well as dash, and made what is an immensely familiar piece sound entirely fresh. Full marks to conductor and orchestra for being a perfect foil to Grimauds headstrong interpretation.
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