The Arts Desk reviews Volume 2 of the Beethoven Journey

“You know that this will be good after just a few seconds; Beethoven’s comically strait-laced opening gesture promptly answered by a smartly shaped orchestral tutti. Well-tuned winds and horns are perky, and string articulation is perfect. All so good that you’re caught off guard when Leif Ove Andsnes makes his sly entrance and you remember that this is a piano concerto. The lightness of touch is intoxicating, Andsnes scaling down his sound so that he’s a perfect match for a well-drilled Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no 2 (actually the first to be composed) works best when the sparkiness isn’t smoothed over. Andsnes’ reading has all the joie de vivre that anyone could ask for, and the wit looks back to Haydn as much as it anticipates mature Beethoven – the finale’s rhythmic zaniness is irresistible in these hands.

“From here to the Concerto 4 is a massive stylistic leap. Ansdnes resists the urge to treat this work as a ponderous, glacial meditation. Everything’s impeccably refined and blended, but flowing speeds and rhythmic sharpness don’t undersell the sly humour. Beethoven’s quirkier modulations surprise and several moments are delicious – the lead in from the first movement cadenza a fine example, Andsnes’ extended trill sustained improbably. Lovely. As is what follows – that unsettling, gruff slow movement and a Rondo which brings us back into blazing sunlight. A vibrant, uplifting disc. It should have appeared several months before now, but the recording was delayed by the unexpectedly early arrival of Andsnes’ partner’s twins. All concerned are now healthy and well, allowing soloist and orchestra to convene in London’s St Jude-on-the-Hill last November. Sony’s impeccable sound adds to the pleasure.”

Source: The Arts Desk