“Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor has been a concert hall mainstay since its 1869 Copenhagen debut. In recent decades the concerto has lost some of its formerly ineradicable status, the work’s big melodies and extrovert solo part seemingly too accessible and out of step with our cynical times. Yet this is a magnificent work, chock full of rich melody and with grateful opportunities for a gifted soloist.
“One expected great things from Leif Ove Andsnes in this most celebrated work of his great compatriot—and the Norwegian pianist delivered the goods. Andsnes is among the finest keyboard artists of our time, a musician of refinement and integrity whose stellar technique and searching sensibility are always put wholly at the service of the music.
“From the familiar opening solo flourish, Andsnes delivered an uncommonly fresh account of this much-played and recorded work. (The pianist’s own 2002 EMI recording remains peerless.) There was ample fire in the virtuosic pages but the brilliance was kept in scale and never utilized for mere showy effect. Most striking was the tender introspection he brought to the score—lingering in lyric passages and illuminating the cadenza with supple phrasing that had one hanging on every note.
“Andsnes brought a poised yet unsentimental touch to the Adagio and the fireworks of the finale went with all due excitement while tempered in a way that made unified the solo bravura with the more nostalgic pages.
“Muti can often be in parallel lanes with soloists when accompanying concertos but he was clearly a simpatico partner with Andsnes—tamping down any hint of schmaltz in the cellos’ big tune of the first movement, and bringing responsive support from the orchestra throughout.
“Four curtain calls brought Andsnes back out for—what else?—more Grieg. He offered a rendition of the “Norwegian March” (Gangar) from the composer’s Op. 54 Lyric Pieces, rendered with delicacy and bumptious good cheer.”
Source: Chicago Classical Review