A standing ovation for Leif Ove Andsnes at the end of his extraordinary recital at the Barbican this evening. Reprogrammed from last June, can there be any doubt that he is the most perfect pianist before the public today?
I am reminded of the young Pollini and well remember his first two recitals,almost revolutionary at that time, in the Q.E.H all those years ago.
In a long programme that included some rarely heard pieces by Sibelius together with the “Hunt” sonata op 32 n.3 of Beethoven and the second and fourth ballades of Chopin.
Here was not only pianistic perfection but a real musical mind looking with fresh eyes at even the most well known works from the piano repertoire.
Rubinstein may have been more instinctive as Richter was more mercurial. Horowitz more demonic,Serkin more intellectually energetic and Arrau a perfection that would be hard to match even today.
But here was a pianist that was absolute perfection on all fronts even to the choice of a “Gould “type programming of unknown Sibelius.
So it is even more perplexing that I was not actually touched or involved in his performances but rather, as with Pollini ,the fact that this was such perfection I just hoped he would do something to surprise , astonish or involve me .
I suppose that this thought came to me as he was playing the famous A flat Polonaise op.53 by Chopin as an encore.
Absolute fidelity to the score almost revolutionary in the way he played the opening almost as a quiet waltz, allowing him to build up gradually to the ” Heroique” appearances of the theme later on.
But the difference with his far superior performance than Rubinstein’s, in so many intellectual ways ,was that with Rubinstein one did not use ones brain to describe the performance because one was so swept away by the spirit and heart of the work ..it was almost an animal rather than cerebral sensation,that arrived by direct contact between the artist and his public.” Passare la ribalta” it is called in Italian stage lingo ( probably best translated as getting across the footlights).
It sounds almost “glizzy” but the Beethoven op 31 n.3 played by Rubinstein in his 90th year in 1976 at the Wigmore Hall had much more impact than this almost perfect performance by someone half his age tonight.
Just some thoughts that passed through my mind trying to understand why I was not moved as I had been by Arrau,Serkin,Gilels ,Richter etc of whom Andsnes is a more than worthy heir.
The sound world of the exquisite impromptu in B minor op 5 n.5 by Sibelius was the same fantastic world of Debussy Pagodes that followed after the interval.
The great Romance in D flat major by Sibelius was every bit as effective as Navarra or the works major works of Lecuona.
A beautiful discovery these pieces by Sibelius of which there are over 150 .
An extraordinarily beautiful Elegiaco op 70 n.10 followed by a scintllating Kylikki op 41 .
A scherzo like Rondino op 68.n.2 followed by a simple Impromptu in E major op 5 n.6.
What a voyage of discovery !
Even in the Chopin one was made aware, for the first time ,of the similarity between the second ballade and the nocturne in F major op 15 n.1.
The fourth ballade that finished the recital received a performance worthy of its position as a pivotal work in the Romantic piano repertoire .
A recital that one entered thinking :”Oh,no not again!” but came out asking sorts of questions that demand all sorts of replies.
A remarkable evening .