reviews Leif Ove Andsnes’ second chamber music concert with Guro Kleven Hagen and Eivind Holtsmark Ringstad at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London

“Nature, nationalism, folk culture: the broad themes of Norway’s visual arts map easily onto its music. That has given Leif Ove Andsnes and his colleagues plenty of leeway in planning their musical tributes to the painter Nikolai Astrup. For this, their second programme at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (which is hosting the first ever exhibition of Astrup’s work outside Norway, and the first major one worldwide) the three musicians presented a range of surprising facets of the nation’s musical psyche. We heard the folk themes, of course, but classical and even Baroque elements were also explored, which seemed particularly fitting in a performance space – the main atrium of the gallery – observed from all sides by aristocratic portraits from the Old Masters.

“But the short recital began with familiar fare: Andsnes in Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. The pianist’s touch suited the acoustic, deliberate and clear but never overbearing. Despite the ubiquity of his Grieg recordings, Andsnes is always able to keep this music fresh, with every phrase holding surprises of nuance and dynamic. The short set ended with the rousing Peasant Dance, op. 54/2, the gradual build-up to the climax perfectly paced, the ever-increasing energy seeming to come from within the music itself. That preparation made the climax seem thunderous, but the crystal clarity of the textures, even here, demonstrated how Andsnes was finely gauging his dynamics to the space … For an encore: Grieg, who else? A song transcribed for viola and piano. A fitting end to an imaginative and wide-ranging series of concerts.”