reviews Leif Ove Andsnes’ performance of Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 4 with Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra

“The BSO have only played Rachmaninov’s fourth and final piano concerto twice in the past. It’s the most modern of his works, and doesn’t have the big-boned, sweeping arcs of the more popular second and third examples. I have struggled for years to like this piece, listening to classic recordings by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and the composer himself as soloists. Last night Andsnes’s take came as a revelation. He has chops to spare to negotiate Rachmaninov’s challenges, but more important, he has the brains and heart to join transitions seamlessly. Nelsons drew gorgeous, flavorful, specifically shaped tones from the orchestra without ever drowning out the soloist. There were lovely solo turns from flutist Elizabeth Ostling, oboist Mark McEwen, and English hornist Robert Sheena in the first movement, shimmering pianissimo string playing in the jazzy theme-and-variations slow movement, and echoes of Shostakovich’s sardonic style in the finale. Pianist and orchestra members exchanged solo and accompanying figures with effortless ease. All the segments joined together beautifully, and a concerto that can sometimes sound like disconnected incidents cunningly cohered. A thrillingly fast coda led to a scintillating finish and a well-deserved standing ovation.”