Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Leif Ove Andsnes: The Beethoven Journey Continues

The Beethoven Journey
Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4
Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Sony Classical

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes continues his highly personal exploration of Beethoven's piano concertos. The second release in this series features the second and fourth concertos, which work well paired together.

Andsnes plays and directs the Mahler Chamber Orchestra from the keyboard. The use of a small ensemble give these works an unusual lightness and transparency. And by combining solo and conducting duties, Andsnes is able to have the orchestra do precisely what he wants, instead of relying on his wishes being relayed through a third party (who may have some artistic ideas of their own).

Andsnes plays with delicacy and an almost liquid smoothness. In these performances, the concertos aren't stormy contests of wills, but rather a group of musicians acting in one accord. Andsnes makes the plain the influence Mozart had on Beethoven, especially in the second concerto. The rough-hewn edges of Beethoven's style are smoothed over and polished to a sheen, revealing the underlying beauty of the music. Music which seems somehow more elegantly simple through Andsnes' performances.

It's always a challenge to present works that have been recorded countless times in a new and original fashion -- and remain true to the music. Yet Andsnes does just that in this successfully completed leg of his Beethoven journey.

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