Leif Ove Andsnes and the Oslo Philharmonic have returned home this week following a triumphant European tour with chief conductor Vasily Petrenko, celebrating the orchestra’s 100th birthday.  Central to the programme was Grieg’s piano concerto – which also featured in the orchestra’s opening concert one hundred years ago – and the performances were rewarded by glowing reviews throughout Europe:

London, The Guardian, 23 October 2019: “The Grieg was glorious. Leif Ove Andsnes was the soloist in a performance that got shot of the accretions of sentimentality that have clung to the work, allowing us to hear it as if new minted. Andsnes’s sweeping treatment of the famous opening phrases ushered in an interpretation at once unusually grand in scale and absolutely direct in expression. The first movement bristled with dramatic tension. The adagio was poised, beautiful and coolly reflective; the finale superbly articulated and tremendous in its weight and sheer elan.”

London, The Arts Desk, 23 October 2019: “… Leif Ove Andsnes. performed it with a magisterial aplomb. He switched our attention from the grand romantic gestures to the shape and movement of the whole. Majestic more than impassioned, with measured tempi and a sense of infallible command, Petrenko and Andsnes seemed to downplay the exuberant decoration of the piece in favour of its architectural weight … Andsnes made the cadenza a monumental journey, but his mountainous authority softened gorgeously in a rippling, otherworldly adagio. This was not so much folksy, homespun and spontaneous Grieg as the work of a young master with fine classical bones: an assertion of European dignity and seriousness in keeping with this orchestra’s century of achievement. Andsnes’s encore, the Peasant March from Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, felt similarly refined and restrained – a long way from a simple country stomp. ”

London,  Bachtrack.com, 23 October 2019: “Even by the high standards of today’s concert pianists, Andsnes’ technique is formidable …  While plenty of pianists can execute right hand semiquaver runs and trills with perfect evenness, Andsnes adds to this crystalline clarity and an extraordinary level of control over the dynamic contour of the whole phrase: the music swells and fades even through the most intricate of filigree runs. The lightness and crispness is breathtaking, nowhere more so than in an exceptionally vivid and colourful rendering of the cadenza and in his encore, Grieg’s Norwegian March.”

Vienna, Der Kurier, 18 October 2019: “Leif Ove Andsnes is an exceptional pianist. The Norwegian is not only a master of powerful, full-bodied, virtuoso piano playing, but also of subtle nuances and intimate sensitivity.”

Vienna,  Kronen Zeitung, 18 October 2019: “If Andsnes’ keyboard art were to be brought to a common denominator, this could probably best be described with the self-evident unity of inspiration, strict textual fidelity and sovereign playing technique. Andsnes always rises to virtuoso fury without ever pushing himself to the fore. wonderful!”

Vienna, Die Presse, 18 October 2019: “Leif Ove Andsnes achieved a serious, atmospherically balanced, all-round brilliant interpretation in the Konzerthaus … With flying colours Andsnes solved all the technical problems of Grieg’s virtuoso piano part, including the dreaded octave cascades, letting the folk songs bloom, imposing with imperial tone and richness of sound”

Hamburg, Die Welt, 17 October 2019: “Fresh and strong, chief conductor Vasily Petrenko opens the much-heard piano concerto of the Norwegian national saint Edvard Grieg, in which the strings play with dark undertones, the woodwinds with finely shaded pastel shades and the brass nobly rounded. Compatriot Leif Ove Andsnes on the Steinway seems completely at home. He sets about with a full-bodied romantic attack, his Fortissimo is well rounded yet never overblown, bringing to Grieg the ideal approach through a gripping and poetic performance. Yes, this Grieg sounds like a Nordic Brahms, sometimes not at all folksy.”

Cologne: Kölner Stadtanzeiger, 15 October 2019: “…  Leif Ove Andsnes cleansed (Grieg’s Piano Concerto) from all the approaches of picturesque fjord romance with his heartfelt, powerful, crystal-clear and completely unsentimental performance. The hard handshake of the opening flourish gave the starting signal to an interpretation of enormous tension, which was springy and tread-resistant at the same time, and which was nowhere unnecessarily contained, but also did not pass any poetic detail carelessly.”

Amsterdam: NRC Handelsblad, 15 October 2019: “How differently the piano concerto of the Norwegian Edvard Grieg sounded, with fellow countryman Leif Ove Andsnes at the keyboard. This masterpiece is in the genes of the orchestra and the music splashed with the transparency of a mountain stream in the summer sun. In the second part, the horn evoked quiet distances and halfway through the finale Andsnes dropped clear drops of water from his fingers as a balm. Nature showed great and intimate at the same time.”