Piano Concerto No.14 in E flat, K449
Symphony No.1 in D, Op.25 (Classical)
Holberg Suite, Op.40
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano & director)
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra
Terje Tønnesen (leader & director)
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 18 May, 2009
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London
Two years after its debut concert in 1977, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra recorded Grieg’s complete works for string orchestra. The music of the Bergen-born composer is clearly in the players blood; the rest of the programme was a miscalculation, though the Holberg Suite, too, left a lot to be desired – not helped by Cadogan Hall’s acoustic – the Grieg harried which resulted in mushy textures and rendered even the Rigaudon impotent, although the ‘Air’ was especially rapt.
The Prokofiev was far too loud, intense, and brutal. The violins in the opening Allegro played too many wrong notes and it was impossible to hear the woodwinds. A conductor was sorely needed. The Larghetto was blundered through, with serious ensemble problems, before the strings reasserted their awful influence in the ‘Gavotta’ – delicacy wholly absent – and then the finale was lunged at with no interplay between the musicians.
Sandwiching the Prokofiev and Grieg were two piano concertos. These, too, failed in execution. Directing from the keyboard, with his back to the audience, Leif Ove Andsnes (a pianist of supreme musical integrity) had the lid of the piano removed, resulting in sound reflecting down from the ceiling to the audience as a mush. The Mozart lacked any ‘classical’ buoyancy although the orchestra was more respeonsive to dynamics and details, enabling the woodwind to navigate through the dominant strings.
The Beethoven only found its footing in the finale, in which the dramatic Beethoven established himself without the orchestra having to resort to merely playing loud and fast. The ominous opening of the concerto was sailed through plainly, devoid of mystery and not inspiring. Andsnes’s playing valiantly attempted to be a partner with the orchestra, and only with relaxation between them in the last movement did they manage to come together with purposefulness.