reviews Leif Ove Andsnes and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in London

Andsnes has a very modest and unassuming stage presence – when he finally came on to the concert platform to play the Beethoven Second Piano Concerto it was clear that he wanted the audience to see him as part of a wider ensemble rather than a flashy soloist.  In the opening of the first movement, the orchestra moved seamlessly from a cultured Classical eloquence to the kindling passion of romanticism.  Andsnes’ playing of the passagework was elegant and nimble and he demonstrated a pleasing sense of Classical style.  He had clearly developed an excellent rapport with the orchestra and they were completely in sync throughout all the shifts in tempo, while the exchanges with the woodwind had a chamber music feel.  He played Beethoven’s own cadenza, which he dispatched with authority and technical assurance.  Andsnes showed us a silky touch in the Adagio and there was a real sense of intimacy in some of the dialogue with the woodwind.  The dying of the piano part in the final pages of the movement was magical.  The finale was boisterous and high spirited with Andsnes and the orchestra really bringing out the Haydnesque wit in some of the exchanges.

… The concert concluded with Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, which is one of the great pinnacles of the piano repertoire.  The opening chords were beautifully weighted by Andsnes and had a warm and tender feel.  His handling of the passagework throughout the first movement was exemplary and he showed us once again a real appreciation of period style and architecture.  However, it was the quality of the dialogue with the orchestra which seemed to lift this performance into a different league.  Andsnes again played Beethoven’s own cadenza:  his playing was measured and restrained and he seemed to be much more focused on creating musical poetry than technical display.  The slow movement was absolutely spellbinding with Andsnes’ whispered pianissimi creating a soothing, bewitching effect and seeming almost to caress his growling orchestral partners into submission – for me this was the best part of the entire concert.  The finale was robust and vibrant and I was struck both the muscularity of the playing and with the way in which Andsnes brought out some of the humour and zaniness of the piano writing.