Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos.2 & 4
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The Beethoven Journey: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4
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LEIF OVE ANDSNES: THE BEETHOVEN JOURNEY
The series continues with Beethoven concertos No. 2 & 4
The celebrated Norwegian pianist continues his multi-annual journey in collaboration with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, dedicated to Beethoven´s five piano concertos. The recording series began with the live recording of the Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3 at Prague Spring Festival in the historic Rudolfinum building and is now followed by the Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4. Andsnes is not only playing the piano but also directing the orchestra.
The journey will continue with the live recording of the Piano Concerto No. 5 and Choral Fantasy again at the Rudolfinum in Prague. “The Beethoven Journey” is a composite work of Leif Ove Andsnes with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The Berlin based orchestra is one of the world´s most acclaimed touring orchestras, on the move approximately 200 days each year. The 45 core members of the MCO come from 20 different countries and live all over Europe.About Leif Ove Andsnes:
The New York Times has called Leif Ove Andsnes “a pianist of magisterial elegance, power, and insight.” With his commanding technique and searching interpretations, the celebrated Norwegian pianist has won acclaim worldwide; the Wall Street Journal named him “one of the most gifted musicians of his generation.”
Andsnes gives recitals and plays concertos in the world’s leading concert halls and with its foremost orchestras, besides being an active recording artist. An avid chamber musician, he served as co-artistic director of the Risor Festival of Chamber Music for nearly two decades, and was music director of California’s 2012 Ojai Music Festival. He was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in July 2013. The pianist has received Norway’s most distinguished honour, Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. In 2007, he received the prestigious Peer Gynt Prize, awarded by members of parliament to honour prominent Norwegians for their achievements in politics, sports, and culture. Andsnes has also received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist Award and the Gilmore Artist Award. Saluting his many achievements, Vanity Fair named Andsnes one of the “Best of the Best” in 2005. Andsnes is a Professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.
The 2013-14 season sees Andsnes embark on a new leg of “The Beethoven Journey,” his epic long-term focus on the master composer’s five piano concertos. Orchestral highlights include performances of the Second and Fourth concertos with Gustavo Dudamel leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the “Emperor” with the London Philharmonic and Vladimir Jurowski, besides collaborations with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; the orchestras of Munich, Stockholm, and Helsinki; and the Swedish and Norwegian Chamber Orchestras. It is with an all-Beethoven program that the pianist launches a 19-city solo recital tour of the U.S., Europe, and Japan, making stops at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Chicago’s Symphony Center, as well as in Princeton, Atlanta, London, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, Tokyo, and more. He rounds out the season in company with baritone Matthias Goerne, with whom he appears in four European capitals.
“You'd be hard put to find a pianist and orchestra better matched." The Guardian
“There’s so much more to this than just exceptional playing; there’s a palpable sense of discovery, of living the music.” Gramophone
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There is no doubt that the soloist is a poet amongst musicians and brings subtlety, strength and phenomenal imagination to these well trodden scores. However, IMHO, the interplay between the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the soloist is what really makes this a stand-out issue. There is no sense of the players tagging along like a reluctant dog on a rainy night wishing they were at home in front of the fire. Every player in this recording sounds involved and part of what is being created before our ears. The sheer quality of the sound produced by the Orchestra is itself a thing of incomparable beauty.
As I've written in other reviews, does a new recording make me hear details I've not noticed before? This cd certainly does. It really is like hearing the piece anew.
Now for the 'Emperor'!
I was astounded by the Third Concerto in Andsnes's previous release in this series, and if this disc didn't make quite as strong an impression that might be because I'm a bit more familiar with the Fourth than I was with the Third. Here again (as in the 1/3 pairing), we have an early concerto and one from the very different sound-world of Beethoven's "middle" period. The Second is charmingly done, and it sets up the bolder and odder Fourth beautifully. The first movement of the Fourth introduces a relation between piano and orchestra that is something of an agon, a contest, and that becomes clearer in subsequent movements, with the pianist asserting his own way against the orchestra as much as he is co-operating with it. Andsnes's playing is remarkably lucid and clear, with considerable dynamic variety and playful tweaking of phrase, all of that coming to a head in the quite long cadenza (Beethoven's own) that is played with remarkable richness of tone, phrase, and texture here. The lead-back into the orchestra is very nicely handled, and the coda is weighty and forceful. Those reviewers who feel this performance is too small-scaled are just wrong, I think -- sure, a chamber orchestra isn't the Concertgebouw, but there's plenty of force when needed (from the pianist too) and at other times a winning textual clarity and lovely piano tone, beside which the excellent Perahia, more closely recorded, can sound a bit glassy.
The second movement is one of Beethoven's oddest and shortest. I think of it as the one where the orchestra tries to assert itself weightily against the piano and fails, because the piano won't give up its relatively quiet insistence. It also functions as the lead in to the third movement, which is a total charmer, with a springing main theme that the piano ends up "stealing" from the orchestra. There's another fine cadenza here, which Andsnes dispatches magically, and the final dash for the finish is playful and exciting. All in all, you won't be disappointed with this disc. The balance is excellent, and the piano tone is getting up there with Kissin's in his great recordings of the Second and Fifth Concertos with Levine.