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Nelsons and Buchbinder Open the BSO's 23-24 Season

In this collage photo, Andris Nelsons (left) stands in profile against a black background, facing left and smiling. He has a beard and a dark blue suit. Rudolph Buchbinder (right) leans against an open piano, softly smiling at the camera with his hands folded in front of him. He has gray hair and a black suit.
Nelsons: Marco Borggreve; Buchbinder: Marco Borggreve
Conductor Andris Nelsons; pianist Rudolph Buchbinder

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Andris Nelsons begins his 10th season as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director with works by Beethoven, Richard Strauss, and Arturs Maskats, as well as Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, with soloist Rudolf Buchbinder.

Andris Nelsons, conductor
Rudolf Buchbinder, piano

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Consecration of the House Overture
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23
Arturs MASKATS Tango 
Richard STRAUSS Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

This concert was recorded on Oct. 6, 2023, and is no longer available on demand.

To hear Rudolf Buchbinder talk with CRB's Brian McCreath about Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23, his most recent recording, Soirée de Vienne, and more, use the player above and follow along with the transcript below


Brian McCreath I'm Brian McCreath at Symphony Hall with Rudolf Buchbinder, back to begin the Boston Symphony's new season with Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23. Mr. Buchbinder, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it.

Rudolf Buchbinder I'm very happy to be back after so many years.

Brian McCreath It's been a little while and I'm so happy that this is the concerto you're doing. Can you tell me about why you chose the Mozart, the A Major?

Rudolf Buchbinder [unintelligible] choosing it all together, you know? And what is the fascinating thing of this piece, of this wonderful piece? It's the only adagio from 27 Piano Concerti. Mozart wrote only one adagio. And this is in this concerto.

Brian McCreath And so the other slow movements are called andante, other things...

Rudolf Buchbinder Romance, larghetto, whatever. It's never very slow. He didn't like slow movements except [in] this piano concerto and of course, the clarinet concerto has the most beautiful adagio.

Brian McCreath So what else makes this piece unique other than that adagio? What makes it different from other Mozart piano concertos?

Rudolf Buchbinder Each piano concerto is different. And, you know, Mozart was very... a little bit showoff. He wanted to be brilliant and successful. And why are these piano concerti so fantastic? Because he wrote them for himself.

Brian McCreath He was the soloist. He was the one who would play it. he knew exactly what he wanted to play.

Rudolf Buchbinder He wanted to play it and he wanted to be the brilliant interpreter of this concerti.

Brian McCreath Well, when you were here in 2017, you played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, and we talked about it and you described the collection of first editions that you have from Beethoven and other composers.

Rudolf Buchbinder Yes.

Brian McCreath And in our conversation, you talked about how important it is to know about the person who composed the piece. And tell me what you, what does this concerto tell you about Mozart? How does it add to your picture of who Mozart is?

Rudolf Buchbinder Oh, you know, I always told my students, as long as I was teaching, "Before you play Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky or Gershwin, it doesn't matter, read a book first about this person, just to know the person." And, you know, Mozart was a gambler. Not only... Ha, he was a player, not only on the piano, and he was a very rich man. But he lost everything in gambling, you know? And he had terrible times, you know, he was begging for money from his friends. [In] the letter he wrote, "I know I owe you so much money, but I need some more please. I cannot paid it back," said like this. But these concerti are fantastic as compared to the piano sonatas, which are not as strong because they... he didn't write for himself. [He wrote] for his students, he dedicated them to some people who paid for this piece, but the piano concerti, he composed for himself.

Brian McCreath And the cadenza that you play in this piece is written by Mozart as well. It's not a cadenza that you composed.

Rudolf Buchbinder No, no, no. My principle is to play always the original cadenzas. And if there's no original cadenza, you have to play your own. Never from a third person. And for instance, not even my students were allowed to play my cadenzas. No, they should write their own cadenza. And of course, the Mozart cadenza if it's original. But if not, you have to play an own cadenza.

 Brian McCreath I see. I see. Yeah. You recorded a set of pieces from Vienna and knowing what I know about your life and your career, this must have been a very personal project, something that was very close to your heart because you're Viennese and this music represents life in Vienna to you, it seems.

Rudolf Buchbinder No, these are the soirées which happened in Vienna, in the palaises: palais Lobkowitz, palais Liflowski, palais Kinsky. And they all old gave money to Beethoven, to Mozart and so on. And they played in this palais and improvised many things. You know, the difference between Mozart and Beethoven—both were fantastic in improvising. It was called by Beethoven "the maestro Fantasia," not improvised, "Fantasia" on the piano. For hours, he could play. The difference was that Mozart did it in the concerts and Beethoven was furious. If Czerny or Moscheles played the piece from him and improvised something, [they were] allowed to improvise private but not on stage by Beethoven. Mozart improvised on stage.

Brian McCreath [McCreath laughs] And this collection on the recording has that feel of—because you do arrangements and transcriptions and things of some of the pieces that bring across that quality of improvization.

Rudolf Buchbinder Oh, of course. And you know, these transcriptions, for instance, unfortunately, Johann Strauss didn't write anything for piano. So we have to play the transcriptions. And Franz Liszt was fantastic in transcriptions. Not only his songs, the Schubert songs, which I played very often, the Widmung by Robert Schumann, which was the wedding present to Clara. This song, and Franz Liszt made a fantastic transcription.

 Brian McCreath And one of the collections or one of the sets of pieces that stands out to me on this recording is the Schubert Impromptus, which are a little different. They're not so much dances. They're a little bit more substantial, maybe emotionally, I don't know. Am I reading that right?

 Rudolf Buchbinder No, it has nothing to do with the dance, the Impromptus. Some people, uh, mean that's these four Impromptus, also the other four Impromptus, are like a sonata, with four movements. It can be, yes, it's possible.

 Brian McCreath Yeah, yeah. Okay, sure. Now, I have to tell you that when I'm not at work, one of the things I do in my leisure time is watch Formula One racing. And imagine my surprise last summer, in 2022, when I watched the Austrian Grand Prix and playing the national anthem was Rudolf Buchbinder.

Rudolf Buchbinder Yes!

Brian McCreath Tell me about that experience!

Rudolf Buchbinder Oh, a fantastic experience. I love Formula One, too. And you know, all the drivers are standing there. But did you see that I had the pole position? [Buchbinder laughs]

Brian McCreath [McCreath laughs] It was quite a sight for a grand piano to be sitting on the grid at the Red Bull ring.

Rudolf Buchbinder Was a fantastic experience.

Brian McCreath So Formula One is something you've followed for a long time?

Rudolf Buchbinder Absolutely. Absolutely.

Brian McCreath Yeah? Okay. Did you ever get to meet Niki Lauda or any of the other great Austrian drivers?

Rudolf Buchbinder No, but I spoke, just a few seconds before the start, I spoke with Verstappen.

Brian McCreath Oh, with Max Verstappen, yeah!

Rudolf Buchbinder Yeah. Just for fun, we said to each other, "I would love to drive," and he should play the piano.

Brian McCreath [McCreath laughs] And actually I understand that—uh, which driver? I think it might be Charles Leclerc—is a pianist!

Rudolf Buchbinder Can be, yes, it can be.

Brian McCreath Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so —

Rudolf Buchbinder I think actually he won the Grand Prix in Austria.

Brian McCreath Oh did he win that one? I forgot which one [McCreath laughs].

Rudolf Buchbinder Because he plays piano, yes.

Brian McCreath [McCreath laughs] Rudolf Buchbinder, it's so good to talk with you and so wonderful to hear you play Mozart. Thank you for your time today.

Rudolf Buchbinder Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.