Philharmonia Orchestra / Mackerras / Alfred Brendel - Royal Festival Hall, 12 October 2008
On Tuesday Alfred Brendel leaves England via the majestic portal of Basingstoke to commence the final leg of his farewell tour, which winds up in Vienna's Musikverein on 18 December.
Tonight was London's chance to say goodbye as he took to the Royal Festival Hall stage in front of a packed house, the even more senior Sir Charles Mackerras and the Philharmonia Orchestra in tow.
His choice of parting shot, as it will be for that final Vienna concert, was Mozart's Piano Concerto No.9 in E flat, the 'Jeunehomme', the work which perhaps captures the composer's genius most perfectly in its sweeping play of emotional contrasts and invention. Brendel, modest and thoughtful as ever, never sought to impose himself, but gently drew out the sparkling wit of the outer movements and the bleak, bitter core. The Philharmonia were alive to every nuance and contributed to a perfectly-crafted whole.
It was a performance above criticism, a fitting end to a mighty career.
How odd then that it was decided to follow concert convention, and place this work in the first half, with a Dvorak symphony to follow in the second. Perhaps it was simply Brendel's choice, humble to the last.