Of active pianist under 50 years of age, Norwegian Leif Ove Andsnes belongs among the best. His variety of covered composers - also on this set - is enviable, his devotion to studying each style pays off in these very precise, but at the same time emotionally charged performances.
Of the individual CDs, the choronologically first one, recorded in 1997, is a real revelation - the first Brahms concerto with Birmingham Symphony/Simon Rattle offers lasting quality, being totally accomplished with just enough showmanship not to drown the beautifully soaring, touching musicality of the work. Meanwhile, the CD also includes three delicate intermezzi, the only solo pieces included in the collections.
The Mozart is surprisingly fresh and joyous, considerably better than indicated by some reviewers here, although it includes the much-recorded Concerto No.20. The same applies to Haydn, where the tempos are not rushed, but, rather, convenient to the recording venue of an Oslo church.
Grieg, Schumann and Rachmaninov No. 2 are also oft-recorded by many pianists and I cannot say Andsnes' recordings somehow stand out, but are very decent nevertheless. Rachmaninov's first, on the contrary, I have heard here for the first time and although compositionally it falls short of the Russian composer's later works, it is definitely worth a listen.
Certainly, this is a great introduction to the art of Andsnes, the collection to be treasured for years to come.
I bought this compilation for the Haydn, but ended up being delighted by the recordings of the old warhorses as well - the live Rachmaninov 2nd in particular. If any cavilling is required, then the 'HIP' accompaniment to the (excellently played, recorded and interestingly interpreted) Mozart is (for me) at odds with the modern grand piano. But so what? It's another view...
I have listened to the first disc of five and had full value for the outlay. This recording and performance of a favourite Brahms masterpiece has redefined and renewed the music for me. Andsnes is, of course, the guiding light but Rattle and the orchestra rise so high to be partners rather than in any way outclassed. Many moments are deeply felt and expressed with insight and subtlety I have never before encountered. I never thought I would say this, but here is a recording of the work that displaces my long-standing favourite Clifford Curzon / George Szell / London Symphony Orchestra (Decca, 1962). If you have any love of Brahms then you should seek this record on LP, CD or on this reissued set. For me, four more discs to go. CD is in its golden age.
Sublime, virtuosic music. A welcome light in an age of X Factor wannabe fake musicians of cheap worthless sound that passes for music. Leif Ove Andsnes is an extraordinary gifted concert pianist who pays homage to his musical muses in the classical canon.