Thursday, October 31, 2013

When the orchestra begins playing the wrong concerto, and you're the soloist

It's every musician's worst nightmare: You sit down to perform a Mozart concerto in front of a live audience at a prestigious concert hall, when, all of a sudden, the orchestra starts playing the wrong concerto.

That's exactly what happened to renowned Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires several years back.

During a lunch concert at Amsterdam's famed Royal Concertgebouw, Pires sat down at her piano fully expecting to hear one Mozart concerto, but the orchestra suddenly started to play a different one: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466.

In documentary footage from the incident, viewers can see a look of pure panic flash on her face as she is forced to inform conductor Riccardo Chailly that she was not prepared to play her part.

"I haven't got this here, it is at home," Pires can be heard telling Chailly, who continues wildly waving his baton while trying to calm her down.

"You played it last season, you know it so well," he responds.

And, sure enough, after gathering her thoughts for a moment and reaching way back into the recesses of the mind, Pires pulls out a hauntingly rendition of the concerto Chailly aptly describes as evoking a "feeling of nowhere, loneliness, [and] despair."


--Neetman Zimmerman, Gawker, on clutch recoveries. HT: JC