Piano Concerto No.17 in G, K453
Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor, K466
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
Recorded 22-24 March 2007 in Jar Church, Oslo
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: April 2008
CD No: EMI 5 00281 2
Duration: 58 minutes
This is an outstanding release in every way. In terms of elegance and crispness, this account of the genial and witty G major Concerto is a sparkling success, Leif Ove Andsnes playing with a simplicity that always puts the music first – yet his contribution bursts with character and creativity. Enjoying a splendid rapport with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, itself an ensemble of first-class musicians contributing much individuality, a real sense of pleasure and chamber-music give-and-take informs music-making at once lively and insightful – and flexible, too – that removes the cares of the world away; indeed it is the musicians’ spontaneity that stands out. Not that the G major work is all sweetness and light, for the central Andante expresses deep contemplation; here the tempo flows and the phrasing is without affectation. Solo strings open the movement, a nice if unexpected touch, and the finale has unforced swing and real urbanity, the closing bars scintillating at a real and effortlessly poised presto.
To extend the camaraderie that these musicians evince, Andsnes joins in the tuttis of the ‘lighter’ work, a chord here and there. He doesn’t do so in the D minor Concerto, one of Mozart’s darkest and most dramatic utterances. Here the first movement is driven, the orchestral textures vivid, not least from timpani and bassoon, Andsnes’s first entry very much ‘in tempo’ with the introduction; this is restless music, demonic even, a quality to the fore here. Having played Mozart’s own cadenzas in K453, Andsnes opts for Beethoven’s example (as arranged Edwin Fischer) in the first movement of K466 and brings a suitably rough-hewn display (nothing ugly – Andsnes is one of the most cultivated pianists around) but fully attuned to the shifting emotions that Beethoven inserts here while remaining true to Mozart’s own impetus.
The ensuing slow movement, ‘Romanze’, refuses to wallow yet is easeful in its ‘song’, the stormy middle section arriving as a natural contrast rather than something abrupt, and cueing a finale that, like the opening movement, is a perfect amalgam of musical clarity and human consciousness, and with enough buoyancy to suggest light pinpricking the darkness. Andsnes’s own cadenza is a terrific release of emotion.
In short, a great issue (and a handsome companion to these artists’ previous release of concertos 9 and 18 – EMI 5 57803 2) and which is complemented by ideally balanced and lucidly detailed sound.