The second installment of the series of Mozart piano concerti from Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra is just as pleasing as the first one, from 2004. The arrangement is nearly perfect for Mozart concerti, a small, tightly knit chamber orchestra with whom Andsnes appears regularly as guest leader (here he plays the solo part and conducts from the piano). The slightly odd DVD of the group, playing excerpts of Mozart concerti in a lovely old Norwegian post office (video of one movement embedded below), shows a close, warm, and friendly collaboration. The only improvement one could possibly hope to make would be the use of 18th-century instruments.
Mozart, Piano Concertos 17 and 20 (K. 453 and 466), Leif Ove Andsnes, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra
(released February 26, 2008)
EMI Classics 50999 5 00281 2 2
This Mozart has a contained sound, not overblown, with the piano and wind solos coming through clearly, neither strident nor distant. At the same time, these beautiful concerti (two of the most familiar, especially no. 20) are not timid or retiring either, and Andsnes displays intelligence, sensitivity, and icy sure finger dexterity. The tempi of the outer movements are fleet but never feel excessively raced. There is not much need for new recordings of these concerti, as there are by one count 78 recordings of K. 453 and 164 (!) recordings of K. 466 available. For someone who does not already own one of them (and even those who do), this recording and its companion volume are excellent and finely detailed Mozart. The only reservation is that, for anyone interested in a historically informed performance (HIP) version, the Academy of Ancient Music's recording of the same two concerti, with Robert Levin on fortepiano, is to be recommended instead.
Andsnes' Mozart Concerti:
DVD: Excerpts of 9/18/20
If you do end up buying this disc, which we warmly recommend, note that the cadenzas have been misidentified in the first printing of the booklet. For the third movement of K. 466, Andsnes did not compose his own cadenza (it is by Johann Nepomuk Hummel) and the one in the first movement, by Beethoven, was not edited by Edwin Fischer. Andsnes and the NCO toured the U.S. in 2006 but, alas, did not visit Washington. However, Andsnes will make a stop here as part of his spring world tour, playing a solo recital in the Music Center at Strathmore (April 22, 8 pm), sponsored by Washington Performing Arts Society. The program will include selections from Debussy's two books of preludes (likely to put last night's Debussy by Lang Lang to shame) and the ballade by Edvard Grieg that Andsnes has been playing everywhere, to observe the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian composer's death last year. It will also feature one of the Schubert sonatas (C minor, D. 958), many of which he has recorded on his series of Schubertiade recitals with Ian Bostridge. All fans of fine piano playing are encouraged to attend.
Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 9 (3rd movement)
Leif Ove Andsnes, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra