Pictures Reframed: Leif Ove Andsnes & Robin Rhode, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

The "pictures" of the title Pictures Reframed are Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition; the "reframing" is down to video artist Robin Rhode. But whether or not Rhode's visual imaginings serve as a stimulus to our own or merely an obstruction is something only each individual spectator can answer. For myself, a pianist as good as Leif Ove Andnes needs no visual accompaniment - on the contrary, his tough and earthily "black and white" account of Mussorgsky's piano classic often conjured images so strong as to positively belittle what Rhodes himself had come up with. But this was a concert for the multimedia age - another App for one's Iphone.

It looked like an installation: a shiny Steinway grand set amidst tilted canvasses of monochrome abstracts, as if Bridget Riley had taken to charcoal. Disappointingly, only the back screen ever actually came alive with Rhode's animated doodlings whereas the set-up rather tantalisingly suggested an all-enveloping effect around the sound source. In other words, it was pretty much a straight piano recital with a video add-on. Imagine if Andsnes had been discovered at the piano instead of merely walking to it. But that was the beginnings of the show in my imagination.



This 78-minute confection was rather more preoccupied with the idea of the innocent eye and ear, a child-like perception. And so a couple of childish animations framed Schumann's Kinderszenen - "Scenes from Childhood". Andsnes looked for the shadows in the piece, heightening the hesitations, intensifying the silences like so many of childhood's unanswered questions.



There followed a new piece by Thomas Larcher "What Becomes" which behaved like a curtain-raiser to Mussorgsky's Pictures being full of Mussorgskian rhetoric and declamation and the odd plucked and scraped piano string to assert its "nowness".



And then the main event - the promenade around Rhode's gallery with Andsnes storming - and I mean storming - the keyboard whilst invoking a decidedly mixed response from Rhode. Some of the imagery was puzzling, some just plain silly, some powerful, even disturbing - like the two Jews "Goldenberg and Schmuyle" who prompted a rapid-fire sequence of obliquely related emblems none of them ever quite turning into the Star of David; or the concluding "Great Gate of Kiev" in which a grand piano Andsnes might have played earlier was literally drowned-out - Jane Campion-like, in the incoming tide. The term washed-up springs to mind.

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