Piano Concerto No.9 in E flat, K271 (Jeunehomme)
Piano Concerto No.18 in B flat, K456
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
Recorded 28-30 August 2003, Jar Church, Oslo
CD No: EMI 5 57803 2 Duration: 60 minutes Reviewed: October 2004
Andsnes Mozart Piano Concertos
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Leif Ove Andsnes has once again made a concerto record of the utmost distinction. Directing the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, and with a recorded balance that reflects him as being the ‘first among equals’, Andsnes chooses ideal tempos and makes chamber music with his friends.
Time and again one relishes Andsnes judging things to a nicety whether in phrasing, balance or in simply crafting the music in what seems a delightful sense of style and meaningful utterance. The string timbre of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra reflects the non-use of vibrato, and it is very effective; not abrasive for its own sake, this soundworld seems apposite in itself and certainly in contrast to the expressive woodwind playing and to Andsnes’s own singing and unexaggerated playing.
This is articulate and communicative playing of the highest order with tempos in the outer movements that breeze along without ever seeming hasty or pushed and with flowing slow movements that are never denied their rich expression. Andsnes is happy to play Mozart’s cadenzas. The tempo relationship between the Presto and Menuetto sections of K271’s finale is ideal, the slow dance having a lovely lilt.
While the E flat concerto has become amongst Mozart’s most popular concertos, the B flat, like the other five piano concertos Mozart composed in 1784 (covering numbers 14-19), for all that it is revered, tends not to be played as often as the later works, the twenty-somethings. No.18 is a quite lovely work, lyrical and playful, and Andsnes gives it with sublime touch, eloquent phrasing, and just enough gravitas to place it on a level commensurate with its quality.
For all the ease that these musicians work together and reveal these works, an awful lot of thought informs their performance, not least to the placing of small details and in the way that Andsnes balances chords and teases the ear by bringing out dissonant notes. Ultimately, it’s the art that disguises art that most distinguishes these versions.
In short, this is a very distinguished release, a true partnership between pianist and orchestra, beautifully recorded, with performances that are sparkling, revealing and deeply considered – and which will stand the test of time very easily.