Andsnes lands strong NY Times review

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes' New York campaign this week has paid off. The New York Times rewards the pianist’s efforts in his Perspective series at Carnegie Hall with a very positive review.

Leif Ove Andsnes

Leif Ove Andsnes, Norway’s most central pianist today, returned to the US this week to complete his seven-event “Perspectives” series at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Andsnes performed a duo recital with Christian Tetzlaff in Carnegie’s main hall (May 4) followed by a series of chamber music concerts at Zankel Hall (May 6, 9 and 13). Following the Carnegie performances, Andsnes will join the Cleveland Orchestra and its music director Franz Welser-Möst for four performances of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (May 19-22 in Cleveland).

Writes NY Times’ Allan Kozinn:

“In a program note for the Andsnes Project, Leif Ove Andsnes wrote that he wanted his contribution to the Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall to be eclectic. That makes sense, although it's hardly a novel approach: nearly all the musicians who have taken part in the series have explored interests well beyond their usual concert routines. So far, the high water mark for eclecticism was a 2001 Perspectives concert programmed by Maurizio Pollini that included ancient Greek chant, Monteverdi madrigals and avant-garde works by Luciano Berio.

Mr. Andsnes's second program, on Monday evening at Zankel Hall, didn't equal that breadth, but it covered plenty of ground, with works by Bach, Dvorak and Janacek offset by bursts of sharp-edged modernism by Matthias Ronnefeld and Gyorgy Kurtag.

Ronnefeld is virtually unknown in the United States, but his music figures prominently in Mr. Andsnes's programs. The two works performed on Monday suggested a quirky, dark humor that might have matured into a fascinating compositional presence.

His Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano (Op. 12), performed by Martin Frost, clarinet, and Havard Gimse, piano, begins with an ominous rumble but quickly develops into a hard-driven dramatic narrative. At least its opening movement does. The central slow movement is more static, and the quarter-tones in the clarinet line give it a hint of eerie off-centeredness. And then suddenly, it changes again: the finale, played with a metronome, is a fast, bright fantasy.

The other Ronnefeld score, "Grodek" (Op. 7), is a work for two singers supported by a hefty chamber band. The text, by Georg Trakl, is a macabre poem of war and death, and Ronnefeld's music matches its mood but also engages the ear with a busily changing fabric that calls to mind the similarly shimmering works of Oliver Knussen.

Ann-Helen Moen, a soprano, and Randi Stene, a mezzo-soprano, gave an evocative reading of the score. They also offered homey accounts of Dvorak's Moravian Duets, and joined by Edyta Kulczak, another mezzo-soprano, they gave lively, folksy readings of the odd nursery rhymes in Janacek's "Rikadla".

Mr. Andsnes, who had sat out the Ronnefeld works, proved a supportive vocal accompanist. His main solo turn came in Bach's Concerto in F minor (BWV 1056), which he played gracefully with a not entirely polished string quintet accompaniment. The concert's finale, Mr. Kurtag's vibrant "...quasi una fantasia...," is also a piano concerto, but the focus is really on the strings, brass and percussion players, who were dispersed to the hall's balconies and aisles, surrounding the audience with a beautifully textured sonic cloak.”

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