To many in the crowd of people in Bass Hall on Saturday night, it must have seemed that the Age of Miracles has not yet passed. The focus of attention was on Menahem Pressler, who at 93 may be the world’s oldest active concert pianist. The years have made him cautious — an assistant helped him to the piano, he used the printed score and a page turner for a piece he may have already played a hundred times — but once seated he was clearly at home. Soprano Danielle de Niese performs during Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Mozart Gala at Bass Hall in Fort Worth. Brandon Wade Special to the Star-Telegram The occasion was the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s annual fundraising gala concert. Joining Pressler in a varied all-Mozart program were music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the orchestra and soprano Danielle de Niese. Pressler was the soloist in the Concerto No. 23, K. 488. He gave a performance full of lyric grace — the beautiful slow movement, one of Mozart’s loveliest, was particularly impressive, as was the contribution of Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra’s woodwinds.
Pressler could have ended his part of the evening with the concerto, but he had more to give his enthusiastic audience. Next he played a solo encore — the most moving “Clair de Lune” I have heard since Debra Saylor’s performance of Debussy’s masterpiece in the 2000 Cliburn amateur competition. Pressler still wasn’t through. Next came what in some ways was the most impressive part of the evening — K. 505, a Mozart rarity for soprano, piano and orchestra. Joining Pressler and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra was De Niese, who, at age 37, is young enough to be Pressler’s granddaughter. Pressler’s near-century of experience as a musical collaborator came into play in this beautiful example of artistic teamwork, with De Niese’s dramatic singing seconded by the pianist’s sensitive collaboration. Pressler’s part of the program was complete, but there was more music to fill out this Mozart-filled evening. De Niese seemed a major-league artist in two soprano arias, and Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra kept the energy level high with two brisk and highly familiar overtures: “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni.” In all, a remarkable evening.