The Financial Times reviews Leif Ove Andsnes and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in London
As anybody who frequents the chamber music Proms in the summer will attest, Cadogan Hall is an ideal venue for small or medium-sized orchestras. It is also during the BBC Proms that we most regularly see the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, when they play at the Royal Albert Hall, but for this concert the visitors headed for the more intimate venue in Chelsea.
Over a four-year period the MCO is engaged on a “Beethoven Journey” with the pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. The project will take in more than 60 concerts in nearly a dozen countries (Basingstoke and Dublin to follow on the autumn 2013 itinerary) and traversal of Beethoven’s piano concertos is unlikely to find a more congenial home than the warm and welcoming acoustic of Cadogan Hall.
In this programme the Second and Fourth Concertos were being performed alongside a pair of Stravinsky’s chamber works, the Concerto in E flat “Dumbarton Oaks” and the Septet. The neoclassical style of the two Stravinsky scores gives them a musical connection to the Beethoven, though one suspects it is more the opportunity for the MCO musicians to shine as soloists that will have governed the choice.
These are the players who form the basis of the exceptional (but part-time) Lucerne Festival Orchestra each summer. Clarinet and bassoon solos were characters in their own right and the overall temper of “Dumbarton Oaks” was highly cultivated, more so than one would expect from astringent Stravinsky. The Septet, with Andsnes at the piano, felt almost mellow, the effect enhanced by having the piano lid removed ready for the concertos, dampening its percussive edge.
In the two Beethoven concertos the chamber proportions of the MCO brought the superbly individual wind and brass to the fore, adding a wealth of detail. Andsnes is a spirited, but never quirky interpreter of Beethoven. The slow movement of the Second concerto was deeply lyrical, enhanced by the eloquent choir of wind players; the finale of the Fourth took off with a rush of energy. These were satisfying performances by musicians of the highest quality enjoying the sort of interplay that comes from long periods working together. Full cycles of the concertos are due in 2015.
Source: Financial Times