This is the second volume in Leif Ove Andsnes survey of the Beethoven piano concertos and Choral Fantasy. I reviewed the first volume in this series (Concertos 1 & 3) here in 2012 (Sony 88725-42058-2) and found the performances quite convincing in their rather understated way. I would say that these accounts are a little more in the mainstream in their approach. The Second is moderately paced and the music has plenty of meat on its bones, both in the piano and orchestral sonorities. That said, Andsnes never tries to overpower the sonic fabric with big fortes or a percussive sound, and the orchestra plays elegantly and accurately under his leadership. Andsnes is always subtle in his phrasing and is alert to the generally lighter character of the Second Concerto, which was really the composer's first concerto chronologically. To quickly sample Andsnes' style in this work, try the finale wherein the pianist is utterly effervescent in his deftly shaped runs, digital smoothness and overall interpretation. Everything brims with sunshine and gracefulness, the whole sounding delightfully playful and witty.
In the Fourth Andsnes again takes a rather balanced approach, with fairly moderate tempos, creamy legatos, alertness to detail without any sense of fussiness, and a wide range of dynamics. His first movement cadenza – the more commonly heard one played by Barenboim, Rubinstein and most others – goes against this approach slightly in its tension, nervosity and drive. Yet, it fits in well with his darker take on this movement. The brief second movement is appropriately grim and somber. With the finale things come colorfully to life but with a bit of restraint initially. When that stomping, jovial main theme makes its second appearance, however, the music takes on an irresistible bouncy sort of rowdy character. The remainder of the movement is played splendidly by both pianist and orchestra.
The sound reproduction by Sony is clear and powerful and the album notes by Jürgen Otten are quite informative. To those listeners interested in the Beethoven piano concertos, this disc should prove a worthy acquisition.
Copyright © 2014, Robert Cummings