The Grand Tour: The Sound of Music

Rudolph Buchbinder

If you’re going to vacation in a world-class city, you might as well take the opportunity to hear a world-class orchestra in a hall that serves them well.

We did exactly that this past Thursday when we attended a concert by the Orchestre de Paris at the Salle Pleyel. Built by the Pleyel piano company back in 1927, this sleek 3,000-seat art deco hall boasts comfortable seats, a great bar, and a spacious lobby. More to the point, though, its acoustics are stunning.

From our seats in the fifth row, every note of Rudolf Buchbinder graceful reading of the Beethoven “Piano Concerto No. 3” was crystal clear and the soloist/orchestra balance was exceptional. Instrumental details in the two Dvořák works that bracketed the Beethoven (the “Symphonic Variations” and “Symphony No. 8”, both of which display the Czech master at his most cheerfully expansive) were nicely delineated, and the overall sound of the hall was perfectly balanced—not too dry, but not overly live, either.

The sound of the Orchestre de Paris is exceptional—clearly the work of musicians at the top of their form. All the little solo passages in the Dvořák works were flawlessly executed and the string section is solid. Conductor and music director Paavo Järvi appears to have excellent rapport with his players and to take great joy in his work.

Mr. Buchbinder, as well, seemed entirely caught up in the sheer pleasure of music-making during the Beethoven, happily tapping and humming along during orchestral passages and completely committing himself to the solo part. The audience awarded him with an enthusiastic ovation and were rewarded in turn with a surprisingly ambitions encore: a flashy transcription of the waltz from “Die Fledermaus”. Mr. Buchbinder tossed it off with ease.

The Orchestre de Paris season continues with Bruckner’s heaven-storming “Symphony No. 8” on Thursday, September 27. For more information: orchestredeparis.com.

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