reviews Leif Ove and Marc-André Hamelin’s duo recital at Carnegie Hall

“What made last night special was not a duo-piano team. For more than a century, duo-pianists have been a popular staple, playing popular music from Schubert to Rachmaninoff. Add to this, some kind of genetic miracle is in the air, and dozens of twin prodigies make a good living with some good playing.  What made the team of Canadian Marc-André Hamelin and Leif Ove Andsnes so special is a) they are amongst the most prominent solo pianists in the world; and b) they are amongst the most adventurous soloists.

“When the name Andsnes pops up on a program, you know that he will be paired with an avant-garde string quartet, or a devilish orchestral ensemble or he will be premiering music never heard before, as well as powerful classic playing. And always, the performance is first-class.

“Marc-André Hamelin is sometimes erratic (I heard him in the Dvorák Concerto, where he played the notes by rote, took a bow and disappeared), but his repertoire is boundless, endless, his delving into the 19th Century and his own jocular compositions are usually stunning.

“So what happens when the two get together? One expected to use the word fireworks, but that won’t do. Andsnes and Hamelin don’t have a genetic synchronicity, they have a quantum physical conception. Boring remarks on their “togetherness” were superseded by their singularity as two artists producing so many different colors, mixing textures from so many different parts of the stage.

“Mind you, a major citation must go to Carnegie Hall. I can’t imagine any other large venue in Manhattan where the two Steinways, placed nose to nose, could generate such a clarity of varied sounds. That was obvious, yes, in the one familiar work, Stravinsky’s Sacre, where we knew what to expect in the fierce orchestral tapestry. But in the rare Stravinsky Two-Piano Concerto, one not only sensed but one heard that two different artists were on fire.”