I absolutely had to share this here as soon as I saw it, or at least as soon as I finished watching it several times!

Maria Joao Pirez is a world renowned Portuguese concert pianist, who played her first public concerts at the age of 5. This clip is taken from a documentary film about Mahler by Frank Scheffer, and it recalls the time when Pirez turned up to a lunkonzerte in Amsterdam having prepared … the wrong concerto. 

There has been a lot of discussion about the validity of this clip, but the ability to switch concertos at a moment’s notice, (although impressive) is absolutely not beyond the realms of possibility. In this clip we hear Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor; one which she would have known since she was a child…

…and one which she had actually played the previous season.

That doesn’t change the heart wrenching panic of having to conjure it up out of thin air at this lunchkonzerte in Amsterdam, conducted by Riccardo Chailly.

It’s like having to resit your university finals when you thought you were walking into a doctor’s appointment…

 

“She was shocked because she was expecting us to play another concerto, so when I started the first bar of the D minor Concerto, she kind of jumped and panicked, like an electric shock I think. She couldn’t consider even moving her hand… playing…”

It seems to me that the introduction to the D minor Concerto is so full of angst in its own way, that it seems to be the perfect accompaniment to this story.

That moment when Pirez finally plays her first note at [02:46], is utterly wonderful. She seems so vulnerable and her sound is so fragile compared to the orchestral introduction. Her playing in these first few bars seems full of resignation, of surrender to her muscle memory.

It’s a truly amazing musical moment.