Pianist Michael Davidman
I can’t remember when I have enjoyed a performance of a Mozart piano concerto as much as I did the dazzling, charming performance we heard last night by 20-year-old Michael Davidman. A student at the Curtis Institute of Music, Davidman was sharing the limelight on this occasion, the 4th program in the Monterey Symphony’s “Grand Piano Series,” with guest conductor Conor Gray Covington, a recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, who at a young age already has an an impressive list of accomplishments to his credit.
We heard Davidman in a performance of Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467. This concerto is often referred to as the “Elvira Madigan Concerto, after a 1967 Swedish film about a dashingly handsome young officer who desserts from the army, abandons his wife and children and runs off with a beautiful young girl. It is a romance with no future, and after a desperately sad few months hiding in forests, they commit suicide together. The hauntingly beautiful Andante movement of Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 provided a lovely, poignant background for the film so effectively that this concerto became a hit with the public, and remains to this day, the most popular of Mozart’s 27 concertos.
Davidman made it all look very easy, which, of course, it is not. Davidman’s technique is so beautifully controlled you were never aware of the inherent difficulties he was overcoming. This was music making au natural. He made the concerto sound fresh and spontaneous, he made the lyricism of the Andante movement sweet and seductive, and he performed the Presto final movement (with its spirited dialogs back and forth between the orchestra and piano) so magnificently it brought the audience to its feet with wild applause. Davidman rewarded the audience with one encore — his own arrangement, improvised on the spot, of the aria Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s Tosca.
Since this was an all-Mozart evening it is not surprising that we were treated to an overture (Don Giovanni) plus the alpha and omega of Mozart’s symphonies — his Symphony No. 1 in E-flat Major, K. 16, and his final Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 “Jupiter.” His Symphony No. 1, only nine minutes in duration, did not make a strong impression, but then it is still an impressive achievement by an eight-year old (I don’t know about you, but I was playing with marbles when I was eight years old). The Jupiter Symphony was another matter. A grand masterpiece, it received a masterful performance under the direction of our young guest conductor Conner Covington.