Beethoven might by rights have been the third name. Although sitting between the symphonies of the titular giants, and not exactly stylistically. Chopin's F minor piano concerto was heard, through the fingers of the 28 year old Argentinean Ingrid Fliter. It was heard and asked to be heard: the Music Academy audience was not witness to some cute little woman, but to a mature and sensitive production. Although she had plenty to choose from the Viennese classics, it is understandable that she is now traversing Chopin, because last year in Warsaw, she won the recognition (and second prize) of the jury of the world acknowledged Chopin competition, which has been organised since 1927 (and which in 1932 was won by Hungarian Imre Ungár)
Interesting though it is to wonder how they make music in South America – and truly it is interesting because the musical globe has shrivelled to such an extent that a piano key played ten thousand kilometres away affect us too – what truly excited me more was where Zoltán Kocsis has reached in his brief period as orchestra builder and head of the National Philharmonic Orchestra. It stood out that Haydn and Mozart are for us “the bread of our body”; everyday musical nourishment, acoustic morsels estimable not just because of their rarity.
Chopin was framed by two C major symphonies: Haydn's 97th (from the second London series) and Mozart's Jupiter, his last essay in the genre. Kocsis' status as a conductor is a most debated issue. I, for my sins, have been listening to music for 63 years and for 44 have been writing down my impressions of conductors, but I have never tried – and probably it is not possible – to scientifically determine what it is that entitles a musician to stand before an orchestra. I am quite convinced though that Zoltán Kocsis is an authentic conductor. He has adjusted the sound of his orchestra, and made his musicians undertake precision work. Of course, it does depend on his people how well an oboe or bassoon solo sounds, whether a glimmering light surrounds the flute, that the trumpets have body but are transparent. But the highly convincing subtlety of tone, in my view, is entirely due to Kocsis. As does the vitality of the soloists. Haydn's playfulness and sarcastic turns gain deeper meaning. It was all surprise, be it the opening , lively dance music, or the Offenbach like finale. However Kocsis retained the greatest magic for the slow variation.
With Kocsis, the Jupiter was more complex, but also more problematic. Part of the work's character is alive, part frozen. There was no lack of the famed precision of the Schaffhausen clocks, the sound also wallowed in colours, at least in the lower strings, a smokiness found its way between the plum jam glue of bow and string. I could not determine whether the ensemble is now mature enough for free, joyous singing, or whether it requires a drill sergeant's discipline. If Kocsis would allow them, the strings could almost certainly produce great singing expanses in the slow movement, and other places. “Come freedom! You give birth to order for me.” Order has come about, we should be grateful, but I am still hoping for freedom. Among musicians, there are none who preserve the style of Busch, Kleiber, Klemperer or Bruno Walter as a tradition. I wish the tradition now being born is a continuation of the greats, and not their denial.
(Népszabadság, November 19th 2001.)