Seen and Heard International reviews Leif Ove Andsnes’ performance of the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Zurich Tonhalle and Lionel Bringuier

“Robert Schumann’s only piano concerto was premiered by his wife, Clara, on New Year’s Day in 1846 with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Theirs was one of music’s great love matches, triumphing over both Clara’s rather practical bent and parental opposition. Clara might be considered to have had it all in the modern sense of the word: she had talent and a career, married her musical and spiritual soulmate, and bore eight children. But of course that was not the case. Robert Schumann suffered a severe mental decline, attempted suicide and died at the age of 46 in 1856 in an insane asylum. His love for Clara is spelled out in the concerto (literally), as the notes of the oboe solo, which dominates the first movement, can be construed to spell out the Italianate version of her name.

“It is the warmth of Leif Ove Andsnes’ playing that impresses one so. He elicits such depth and richness of tone from the piano while maintaining a certain lightness of touch. He lacked neither drama nor formidable technique, but it is the lyrical, singing quality of his playing that marked this performance. The exchanges between piano and orchestra in the first movement were as sighs shared. The Tonhalle acquitted itself splendidly, with Simon Fuchs, the solo oboist, playing his spirited, yet wistful melody with élan. Lionel Bringuier is elegance personified both in his appearance and conducting, and it is just fine that he is a bit on the formal side of the equation.”