Classical Source reviews the opening season concert with the Philharmonia and Esa Pekka Salonen in London

“On the strength of this performance alone, Leif Ove Andsnes is currently one of the master Beethovenians. In the First Piano Concerto, which wonderfully combines the composer’s growing maturity with the infectious wit of his tutor Haydn, Andsnes demonstrated enthralling confidence and understanding. He made the Royal Festival Hall Steinway sing with sumptuously rich tone, while maintaining high-definition clarity of melodies and inner lines; fast passagework was nimble and unnervingly precise, but always serving the music, never superficially flashy. The central Largo was tender and affecting without any trace of sentimentality, and the finale dazzlingly invigorating. Here he was well-matched by suitably energetic orchestral playing; previously, especially in the first movement, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s more lackadaisical approach seemed occasionally at odds with Andnes’s forward drive. For an encore there was more astonishing note-perfect dexterity and dramatic heft with the perpetuum mobile finale of the Sonata in F, Opus 54.

“Andsnes was also the pianist in the opening work, which takes Beethoven as its starting point – György Kurtág’s …quasi una fantasia … The stage was eerily empty apart from piano, a zither and percussion. Salonen conducted from the organ console at the back of the stage, facing into the auditorium – from all corners of which the magical, mystical sounds gradually emerged. From arresting percussive moments, the piece concludes with the haunting sound of recorders fading into the ether; effective and cathartic.”