The Guardian reviews Leif Ove’s London recital

Until 2012, there was a Beethoven-shaped hole in Leif Ove Andsnes’s recorded repertoire. Now, with his second CD of the concertos just released, it is hard to decide whether to be glad that he waited until he knew exactly how he wanted to approach this most central of piano composers, or to wonder what took him so long.

Before he tackles the Emperor Concerto next month, he is touring with this all-Beethoven recital programme, opening with the Sonata No 11 in B flat, Op 22. It was a beautifully judged performance, if not a terribly personal one. The scales and arpeggios at the start of this piece always have a touch of the practice room about them, but Andsnes lent them exuberance nonetheless, though later at their return a touch of doggedness crept in. The later movements flowed elegantly, calmly, but with just enough energy and point.

In the Sonata No 28, Op 101, however, it was precisely that elegance and calm that made his interpretation distinctive, especially in the second movement, where the same spiky march figures could sound forceful one moment, relaxed and springy the next. Everything seemed part of an ongoing, naturally unfolding process. The Six Variations, Op 34, were a genial treat, with even the march, the darkest episode, having a bass line that invited dancing.

All of this raised the bar for the climax of the concert, Sonata No 23, the Appassionata. Which would win: the sense of line we had been enjoying for most of the evening, or the turbulent intensity of this particular work? In fact, Andsnes held the two in an astonishing balance, shaping individually powerful surges into parts of a bigger whole, and hurtling into a closing passage that had the audience on the edge of its seat.

Two beautifully played encores, Beethoven Op 33 No 1 Bagatelle and the last of Schubert’s Op 94 Moments Musicaux, found Andsnes just as poised as at the start.



Source: The Guardian