A piquant little concert. The former music director of the National Philharmonic Orchestra (and now its Conductor Emeritus) conducted, while the present one played the piano. Translated into names: Kobayashi and Kocsis. Since it wasn't possible to try the reverse combination, we were faced with a pleasant Face the music style quiz show, and the audience could also smell blood, with the consequence that there was as many people crammed into the Music Academy as there were with Menuhin or Richter in days gone by. Or perhaps even more. For my own part, I don't recall a situation where it was not possible to stand at the back or the side, and we were pressed between the rows of seats as if on a bus. For one evening, the lovely old cultural days of times past had returned.
I don't know whether the past haunted Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi. Whether it occurred to him that he did not leave this orchestra in the same state he received it now – this is something we won't worry about. Perhaps it is not really important. For Kobayashi this is the best situation: he is conducting a good orchestra, he never heard such responses from the violins, such precise ensemble playing, so many colours, when he himself was responsible for the sonority. Now he makes wheels with his conductorial baton like a magic wand: his movements are very spectacular, flexible and expressive, it is good to watch him, and meanwhile, we hear music.
Similarly I do not know what was going on in Zoltán Kocsis's mind, when he raced away in the third movement in such a way that there is no person who could precisely follow him with an orchestra. Whether he intended this as a present to his predecessor, or really whether he was guided by just musical considerations (but let us not suppose Kocsis changed his spots, three weeks ago in a Beethoven concert, he chose a frightening tempo for the last movement, although then he was conducting.) The best thing is that Rachmaninov and the Second Piano Concerto can take it, the extreme tempo is acceptable – if before it in the slow movement, we receive a strange, masculine objectivity, from which every stupid sentimentality, every oh it's so beauuutiful! peels away. I don't really understand why it is that one pianist can look down at the stars from the sky, flounce and lyricise, and yet nothing happens, while another (the present one) just plays the requisite notes, and the spirit pours forth from him.
For me, hearing Kocsis in this work once more, meant personal reassurance, since half a year ago, at a different concert with a different soloist, you couldn't hear the piano solo and you started to wonder whether Rachmaninov had spoiled the orchestration, whether the thick textured orchestra unnecessarily excluded the piano, whether it is not some ideal recording that lives on in the ear. Well no. Fair play. You could hear everything, the slightly washed runs of the first movement, a few clinkers, the self-possession and the suicidal final movement, after which Kocsis, like a Branisko hero, stood smiling at the truly incessant applause. Kobayashi also applauded, with enthusiasm. They embraced each other, truly, what happened yesterday is not important, only now.
Please accept my condolences all those who were not there.