Radu Lupu, Riccardo Muti: Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’

Well, the current CSO season’s survey of all five of Beethoven’s piano concerti finally came to a close last night, with Radu Lupu playing, arguably, the most well-known of the five – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, also known as the Emperor Concerto. I didn’t make it to all five programs – I only went to Beethoven Piano Concerto 3 w/ Mitsuko Uchida and Maestro Muti, Beethoven Piano Concerto 4 w/ Yefim Bronfman and Maestro Muti, and then the 5th, w/ Radu Lupu and Maestro Muti (see the common thread here? 😀 ). Anyways, for a long time (maybe since junior high?), my favorite of the five was always the Emperor (especially since I’ve had Perahia’s/Haitink’s recording on my iTunes for a while!), but after hearing the third played by Uchida last month, I seemed to have switched favorites. Regardless, it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to hear the great Radu Lupu, who ranks alongside Murray Perahia as my all-time favorite pianists, play this piece. His exquisite tone and sense of color in the famous second movement was a delight to listen to live, and I’m super grateful that I was able to make it to this performance. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I am able to hear Radu play live again.

However, as much as the program was hyped around the Emperor, I do have to say that Liszt’s Dante Symphony, based on Dante’s Divine Comedy was in itself a truly divine work, no pun intended! From the fiery chasms of the Inferno to the heavenly Magnificat section with the women’s chorus, all brilliantly maneuvered by Maestro Muti, this spectacle was just another one of many amazing highlights of the current CSO season. I’m glad that I got to hear this piece for the first time here in Chicago, among all places.

It was just about two years ago when my sister and I got to meet Murray at his recital in Chicago, and we got him to bless (sign) our CD recording and score of the Schubert Fantasie in F-minor, which is probably the greatest duet written for the piano. We must have listened to Murray and Radu’s legendary recording of the piece hundreds of times when we were practicing ourselves, and so we’ve been patiently waiting to see if there would ever be a chance that we could meet Radu! Luckily, going to school in Chicago afforded me that awesome opportunity, and I couldn’t be more grateful to Radu for taking the time to sign our recording and score. It’s always nice (and humbling) to know that someone you’ve looked up to as a role model is also a kind and generous person!…

…Speaking of which, I do have to mention how great of a person Maestro Muti is – I know that I’ve said this so many times, but seriously I can’t say it enough. Every time I go back to say hello to him (like last night!) I’m always greeted with a huge smile – he’s really one of the warmest people I know (I cannot say the same for many of my professors at school…). I absolutely cannot wait to go to his Academy this summer, when I can spend a more dedicated amount of time learning from him, but until then, I’ll have to settle for the upcoming CSO programs that he’ll be doing here these next two weeks, aka the Brahms symphony cycle! Also, he has an open rehearsal on Sunday, so I’ll probably stop by as well 😀 Overall, a great end to this week, which just about marks the halfway point of this quarter – cannot wait to be done with this school year!



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