Piano Concerto 2
Anders Hillborg’s new piano concerto, written for Emanuel Ax, lit up Davies Symphony Hall with joyful insouciance and effortless creativity in its second performance on Friday evening. It was the highlight of a concert brimming with energetic music-making of the highest order.
‘The MAX Concerto’ – nicknamed by the Swedish composer to celebrate the eminent American pianist – burst out of the starting gate with grand arpeggios that harkened back to Beethoven and Grieg, then wended its way through fields of hazy chords, outbursts of pungent dissonance, devilishly complex piano finger-busters and a welcome range of dynamics and tempos. All of it shone with the exuberance and matter-of-fact virtuosity that have long characterized this pianist.
Although the orchestral colors and busy-ness might have made a delightful piece without the piano, every phrase dovetailed with whatever the piano was up to. Unlike most concertos, which figuratively pit the orchestra against the soloist, this one had a different aim. It got the entire team on the same side, encouraging each other at some points, soothing with achingly supple music at other times and revving up to big climaxes.
Harvey Steiman, Seen and Heard International, 15 October 2023
Piano Concerto 2
Anders Hillborg’s “MAX Concerto” Is a Fascinating Ball of Fun
The music’s most remarkable and winning characteristic is the merging of the piano with sections of the orchestra. High jangling notes from the piano are matched with every chiming sound available from the percussion. Little piano motifs are played simultaneously by piccolo or other wind instruments. Active tumbling figures in the piano are set against sheens of string sound.
David Bratman, San Fransisco Classical Voice, 16 October 2023
Piano Concerto 2
The new piano concerto by the Swedish composer Anders Hillborg is vivacious, funny, heroic, eloquent, plain-spoken, thoughtful and wholly irresistible.
It serves, in other words, as a musical portrait of pianist Emanuel Ax, who joined the San Francisco Symphony and Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen in Davies Symphony Hall Thursday, Oct. 12, to give the piece its triumphant world premiere.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of “The MAX Concerto” is its easy but uncompromised accessibility. At a time when audiences remain wary of contemporary music — slow to unlearn the lessons of past generations whose tastes were treated by too many composers with snobbish contempt — Hillborg (whose “Rap Notes” helped open the Symphony season) writes with a generous, expressive touch. You can’t help but love the results.
Joshua Kosman, San Fransisco Chronicle, 13 October 2023
Sverigepremiären av Anders Hillborgs läckra violakonsert inramades av Beethoven. En fullsatt fullträff konstaterar DN:s Johanna Paulsson efter kvällen i Berwaldhallen.
...bakom den kryptiska satsbeteckningen ”Odobenus lachrymae” märks en musikaliskt fyndig blinkning till en viss valrosslåt av stadens berömdheter Beatles. Power har önskat sig ett verk som lockar fram violans heroiska kvaliteter snarare än elegiska framtoning. Hillborg har hörsammat med ett snitsigt hopkommet showstycke som både börjar och slutar med ursinne – i slutet med ett förbaskat förstärkt forte fortissimo och unisont orkestervrål.
Johanna Paulsson, DN, 31 mars 2023