What the critics said:

“This concert was at least worth a Nomination for a Gold Award. Also platinum, diamond or anything … but something very rare. The jam-packed large Henry Le Boeuf Hall of the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels – known for disturbing cough – kept quiet and, at the end, sprang to their feet to give a standing ovation … This is The Beethoven Journey in which Leif Ove Andsnes has led us through the five piano concertos arriving now at its final stage … With the first chords (of The Choral Fantasy): goosebumps. This is it. Andsnes at his very best. The tension in the room could be cut with a knife. Honestly, I have never heard such sublime runs. This is a transcendent experience … It is quiet in the hall. No scuffing of feet, no coughs. On stage, a miracle takes place. The double basses are alert and waiting but the piano introduction takes its time. Then the violent horns – so typically Beethoven – announce the arrival of the orchestra. A beautiful duet between the flute and piano leads us to faster rhythm, forcing tears to many eyes. Transcendent but also transparent. None of the heavy mass that disturbs me in some performances …

“The Fifth Concerto – the “Emperor” – breaks with the tradition of the piano concerto. Orchestra and piano are equally important. In this symphonic structure there is a constant dialogue between soloist and orchestra. Virtuosity is no longer virtuosity but instead woven into one great whole. A perfect balance of seemingly inexhaustible wealth and surprising innovations … This concerto is like a obligatory passage in the career of every pianist but what Andsnes does defies (even surpasses) the imagination …

“And we cannot forget the miraculous way in which Andsnes ‘plays’ with nuances. From a velvet soft but very clear pianissimo to a resounding fortissimo … With bold rubatos (in the solo passages) everyone’s breath was on hold, both the audience and musicians. In some long-held trills there was almost a superhuman speed … The pianist Urbain Boodts raved about  “the concert of the century” and “a contribution to a better humanity.” It would be nice if this music could save the world …”

Milo Derdeyn. Klassiek Central, 8 December 2014


“Over no less than four continuous seasons we have had the opportunity to hear Leif Ove Andsnes play: let’s call it an example of musical indulgence. Over the last three years, the master pianist has visited our capital accompanied by his beloved companion, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Their joint concert tour under the title “The Beethoven Journey,” is now in its third and final season. Each of Beethoven’s concertos in Brussels, including some extra luster. An ideal opportunity therefore to introduce Beethoven’s less performed fantasy for piano, chorus and orchestra (opus 80). With hindsight, an excellent choice, because this could hardly have been a more grandiose culmination of the whole concerto cycle.”

Jan-Jakob Delanoye, cuttingedge.be, 6 December 2014


“… An evening full of musical champagne because this concert will be forever etched in the memory! …  From the first notes (of the Choral Fantasy) the public knows that this concert will be wonderful, and the level of attention is at its absolute best. The first powerful arpeggios alternate with an intimate and playful hopscotch jitter. Crescendos are gleaming, the orchestra is silently alert, trills and double-joker notes play in a generous musical cuckoo forest. Then each desk moves off, music sculpts our eyes and delights our ears. Each instrumental encounter is a new artistic one. The flute and oboe join in, accompanied by piano and tutti exulting in the joy of the complicit orchestration. Leif Ove Andsnes treats his piano like a harp. The cheerful theme that foreshadows the Ode to Joy of the 9th symphony, is repeated with bouncing echoes. The chirping soloist tremolos and long dreamy melody is punctuated by tender brass. The whole orchestra is soon in a rhythmic hunt which then ends in pianissimo. That’s when the chorus comes in and delivers a sublime interpretation of the poem Christopher Kuffner “Fried und Freude Gleiten freundlich der Wellen Wechselspiel …” Here is a mirror in which faith and confidence reverberates in humanity, the celebration of friendship through art –  everything is in this wonderful dialogue between soloist, orchestra and choir. The explosive chorus in the final crescendo gives an impression of vertigo and it is thunderous applause which ends the first part of this concert

“In the second half is probably the best interpretation of the Emperor Concerto No. 5 we have ever heard. The direction was extremely delicate, the piano solo parts real floral outbreaks. Elegant, soft, sun set. The pianist, who radiates an intense charisma, epitomizes both the extreme humility and greatness of man. Fluidity, control, perfect balance. His keyboard touch is both the angel and the human in its firmness and nobility. The virtuosity increases its pace as light waves immediately transmitted by the hands become silent violins in the second movement. The orchestra is listening almost religiously to the soloist and supports with a carpet of caressing notes. The pizzicato basses give breadth and depth while the melody is now held by the wind. The velvet tones of the piano trill and sublime waterfalls pour forth. Does he breath the notes onto the keyboard instead of touching? It is a soul that has stepped into the sublime and and it brings with it the whole orchestra. The solar jubilation of last rondo is a real apotheosis and the public launches into enthusiastic applause.”

Arts et Lettres, 5 December 2014

Source: Arts et Lettres