Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Hélène Grimaud and the Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest were at the TCE in October 2016 for a concert Bartók and Mahler.
The first part consisted of Béla Bartók’s 3rd Piano Concerto. Les artists offered a very good version of the work, which is more accessible than the 1st Concerto or even the 2nd, despite the fact that it shares with it an extraordinary slow movement. Sometimes still the neglected one of the 3, the piece is nevertheless abundant with wonderful sections, and has an almost Mozartian spirit, but with caracteristics proper to the Hungarian composer (modes and scales, links with folk music, counterpoint / fugue passages). If the 2 fast movements are full of drive, the Adagio religioso is clearly the summit of the concerto, with its choral which sends back to both Beethoven, Bach and Mozart, and its central night music, so typical of Bartók.
Change of atmosphere with a much bigger orchestra for Gustav Mahler’s 1st Symphony, Titan. This master stroke for a young composer – though very poorly received at the time of its creation – is one of the high points of his symphonic body. Yannick Nézet-Séguin and his Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest (with the excellent leader Marieke Blankestijn) brought out the qualities and the inventiveness of the work (the timbres and the orchestration so personal to the Austrian composer), with its 4 contrasted movements: the nature coming to life in the 1st, with one or two sections sending back to Bruckner, the popular aspect with a “ländler” in the 2nd, the funeral march based on the theme of Frère Jacques in the 3rd, and the tumultuous Finale, which lasts as long as many of Haydn or Mozart symphonies…
Yannick Nézet-Séguin did not depart from his habit to give an encore, one of Brahms Hungarian Dances, which was very nice of him, but maybe not indispensable after going such heights.