by Daniel Hathaway
The most fascinating paragraph in the program booklet for last Saturday’s Cleveland Orchestra concert at Blossom was in the sidebar summing up salient facts about Camille Saint-Saëns’s second piano concerto: “The Cleveland Orchestra first presented this work in November 1919, with a piano playing from a mechanical roll recorded by Harold Bauer.”
That was a marketing ploy by the Aeolian Piano Company which evidently helped fund a nice chunk of the orchestra’s second season, while nearly driving conductor Nikolai Sokoloff to distraction. Happily, on July 27, 2013 there was nothing whatsoever mechanical about French pianist Cédric Tiberghien’s thrilling progress through the piece in tandem with French conductor Stéphane Devène, which was at times expansive and lyrical, and at others positively seismic.
The first movement became a vast cadenza with dramatic orchestral punctuation that Tiberghien seemed to be creating on the spot — like a ruminative improvisation by an organist (a role Saint-Saëns filled for 19 years at L’église de la Madeleine). [Read more…]