Classical: Leif Ove Andsnes; Wigmore Hall, London
Tuesday 12 March 1996
Next came Chopin's most outspoken Ballade, the Second in F major, with its tilting principal melody and violent dynamic alternations. Andsnes phrased the opening measures with considerable finesse, then raised a formidable storm for the two presto con fuoco episodes.
But when it came to the Barcarolle (a Fifth Ballade in all but name), he seemed rather less in tune with the work's more complex construction. The final climax, though, was extraordinarily exciting.
The high spot of the recital was, at least for this listener, Frank Martin's Fantasie sur des rythmes flamenco, a relatively late work that - like Chopin's Barcarolle - is musically far more substantial than its title suggests. Bartok, Gershwin and Piazzolla, all are implied (it's a sort of 1970s equivalent of Soler's epic Fandango), though much of the colouring is unusually dark. Andsnes's performance was strong and assured, especially in terms of rhythm.
The Spanish connection extended to the last item on Andsnes's official programme, Schumann's discursive First Sonata in F sharp minor, the first movement of which started life (here I'm indebted to Gerald Larner's excellent programme note) as a Fandango. A further parallel with its recital companions occurs in the brief aria, the principle theme of which bears a certain similarity to that of Beethoven's Op 22 slow movement.
It's one heck of a piece, bold, demanding and substantially over-long. Perhaps it will crop up on Andsnes's forthcoming Schumann disc for Virgin, although whether it quite repays the effort needed to conquer its difficulties is open to question.
Audience response was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that we were treated to three encores, all of them by Chopin: two Mazurkas and a Study.
Here Andsnes didn't quite connect with the Mazurkas' subtle rhythmic language (so few non-Poles do), although the Study - the final piece from Op 25 - was performed with appropriate abandon.
Add a touch more humour, warmth and imagination to the mix, and Leif Ove Andsnes will have us all talking.
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