Leif Ove Andsnes plays Beethoven at Barbican Hall [Opus 101 … Appassionata]

Piano Sonata No.11 in B flat, Op.22
Piano Sonata No.28 in A, Op.101
Six Variations on an Original Theme, Op.34
Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor, Op.57 (Appassionata)

Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 4 March, 2014
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Leif Ove Andsnes. Photograph: Özgür AlbayrakLeif Ove Andsnes graced not only the Barbican Hall but also the airwaves with this Beethoven recital. The B flat Piano Sonata was given a crisp and frolicsome first movement. Andsnes’s fingers needed no warm-up, for clarity and dynamic contrasts were in place from the first bar. The Adagio was gracefully sounded and eloquently phrased. Overall this was a performance coursing with vitality whether the music is slowly lyrical or dance inspired, Andsnes relishing contrasts without drawing attention to them. This Sonata’s relative urbanity was followed by the sublime Opus 101, given with authority, insight and, above all, wholesomeness. The second movement ‘March’ swaggered, its trio was ethereal, and the slow opening of the third movement had a poise and depth that suspended time, the ensuing fugal elements and imposing final bars made inevitable.

Leif Ove Andsnes. Photograph: Özgür AlbayrakTo open the recital’s part two, the Opus 34 Variations presented a protean Theme and ingenious, sometimes ribald commentaries that Andsnes enjoyed presenting in their own right and as an entity. Finally the ‘Appassionata’ Sonata, concentrated and over in a flash in Andsnes’s viewing of it. There have been more mysterious, agitated and inflated accounts of it, but few as scrupulous and focussed, Andsnes keeping the fine-sounding Steinway within tolerable tones and volumes, yet without denuding this powerfully illustrative music. In the finale, having rightly played through the development section twice – as marked – Andsnes saved something for the coruscating coda, at once rhetorical and with a kick of extra energy. He offered two encores, some uncomplicated Beethoven – a mere Bagatelle, in fact – and to complete a seriously good evening of music and music-making (surviving a couple of mobile-phone interjections and ill-timed coughing), the last of Schubert’s Moments Musicaux (D780), which Andsnes dug into and touched nerves beneath the beautiful surface.

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