From music critic Lindsay Koob:
famous piano concertos by Haydn & Mozart — went fabulously well. Von Oeyen conducted his small orchestra from the keyboard for these, and while that’s nothing new for some of our greatest pianists, it’s only the second time he’s ever tried it. He described it as a supreme challenge — trying to keep focused simultaneously on both the orchestral playing and what his fingers need to be doing at the keyboard. It about double the potential pitfall index. But the result can be magical, when the same musical mind is in charge of both main aspects of the music.
It’s certainly sparked a desire in him to keep doing it, and perhaps even branch out into pure orchestral conducting at some time in the future. Even though he’s had no formal training as a conductor — Maestro Villaume coached him through these pieces — anybody who’s played with orchestras as much as he has knows something about what a conductor does. It helped that he’s known this music for a long time — he first played the Haydn with orchestra at age 10, and the Mozart at 11. He resurrected these works both in honor of Mozart’s birthday year, and to provide a strong contrast to Spoleto’s big bruiser last year, Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto. (Apparently the choice of his Spoleto programs has largely been left up to him.)
But for now, with the pressure off, von Oeyen says he’s happy for the chance to take in the rest of Spoleto and enjoy assorted Lowcountry pleasures. He’s even taking the time to get together with his friends from the SFO, and indulge in impromptu chamber music jam-sessions. A hint about future Spoletos? Time will tell.