Seen and Heard reviews the Birmingham concert with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and Herbert Blomstedt

“For this tour they have been joined by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. He is currently focusing on the music of Beethoven both on the concert platform and in the recording studio. Not long ago he released a recording of Beethoven’s First and Third Piano Concertos in which he also directs the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. One suspects a recording of the Fourth may be imminent: on the evidence of this Birmingham performance if a recording appears it will be well worth hearing.

“… Throughout the performance the orchestral contribution was excellent, the playing light on its feet yet founded on firm tone. The balance with the piano was excellent and I noticed that Andsnes drew a surprisingly bright tone from the Steinway; that suited the music and his approach to it. His playing was immaculate. In the first movement he played with appropriate strength whenever Beethoven demanded it but there were countless subtle, delicate touches too. He chose the first, more substantial, of Beethoven’s cadenzas and gave a very fine account of it; at the end of the cadenza the reunion with the orchestra was beautifully done by all concerned.

I was impressed by the depth of tone from the strings in the slow movement though, because the number of players was sensibly proportioned, the string parts were not excessively weighty. Andsnes was a calm, poetic influence though there was no unwarranted exaggeration in his expressiveness. At the very end of the movement I liked very much the air of quiet tension in the performance. The finale displayed what I might call disciplined jollity. The performance was engaging and smiling yet one sensed it was all scrupulously controlled; I enjoyed it very much. This was a fine performance of the concerto and one that clearly resonated with the Birmingham audience. As an encore Andsnes treated us to a sparkling performance of Chopin’s Waltz in A flat, Op. 34, No 1.”

Source: Seen and Heard International