“Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes doesn’t like to rush things” wrote the Daily Telegraph following Leif Ove’s concert in Birmingham with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. “He’s waited until his forties before launching a long-term project to record all five Beethoven piano concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. He’s now recorded the First and Third, and this classical concert was part of a European album tour.

“Andsnes’s thoughtful modesty showed in his unhurried demeanour, and his determination to reveal the music, rather than “put his stamp” on it. All Beethoven’s nobility and warmth shone through, and if the humour wasn’t as broad as some pianists make it, it was certainly there. Even before Andsnes appeared, the sound of the orchestra told us we were in for something special. It was astonishingly powerful for its modest size, and gave a terrific stony fatefulness to Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, which they played without conductor … In the concertos the orchestra revealed an extraordinary empathy with Andsnes’s way of music-making. The clarinettist’s phrases dovetailed with the Andsnes’s so beautifully in the slow movement of the First Concerto that they seemed to be emanating from the same source.

“In the Third Concerto Andsnes projected everything on a bigger canvas, the luxuriant beauty of the slow movement grander and more spacious than the slow movement of the First. He made the pause before the final farewell daringly long, so that time seemed to stop. For a moment, we were in a thoroughly romantic world, before the stern mood returned.

“All this revealed Andsnes’s instinct for pointing up Beethoven’s odd juxtapositions, the way pathos and humour sit cheek by jowl. There was a telling example of that in the finale of the First Concerto, where as we waited for the rumbustious theme to burst in again, he allowed a calm haze steal over the sound. Finally it came, like something comically intruding on a daydream.

“However, the really interesting moment came later, when Andsnes brought that same rumbustious tune back, but now with a gentler, almost thoughtful air. Don’t assume things are clear‑cut, the moment seemed to say. The joker can also be a dreamer.”

Source: The Daily Telegraph