Leif Ove Andsnes / Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Fanz Welser-Most
Bent Sorensen: The Shadows of Silence for solo piano; Lullabies Marc-Andre Dalbavie: Piano Concerto Gyorgy Kurtag: Jatekok (selections) Witold Lutoslawski: Piano Concerto
Wholenote Discoveries - May 2009
Since first hearing the music of French "spectral" composer Marc-Andre Dalbavie at a Continuum concert in 2005 I have encountered a number of his intriguing works, always with great appreciation. The most recent to come my way is a brilliant Piano Concerto commissioned and performed by Leif Ove Andsnes on a new CD with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra under Franz Welser-Most. While it seems to be central to the thesis of the recording, this disc is not devoted to music of Dalbavie. It also includes the powerful concerto of Witold Lutoslawski, whose music was in many ways a precursor to the spectral pioneers Grisey and Dufourt. While I would not recommend this performance over the 1992 DG recording (431 664-2) with dedicatee Krystian Zimerman as soloist and the composer conducting the BBC Symphony, I welcome this "second opinion" and am happy to be reminded what a striking work it is. These two entrees are book-ended by contemplative works for solo piano by Bent Sorensen and separated by selections from Gyorgy Kurtag's playful Jatekok (Games). All in all a very well balanced and thoroughly contemporary disc. David Olds
Leif Ove Andsnes's new CD for EMI Classics features performances of some of his favourite contemporary repertoire including world premiere recordings of two 21st century compositions written for him: Bent Sorensen's The Shadows of Silence for solo piano, and the Piano Concerto by Marc-Andre Dalbavie. Andsnes also performs Witold Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto and selections from Jatekok (Games) by Gyorgy Kurtag. The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Franz Welser-Most join Andsnes in the two piano concertos, both recorded live. The Piano Concerto by Marc-Andre Dalbavie (b. 1961, France) was a co-commission of the BBC Proms, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Andsnes performed the world premiere with the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jukka-Pekka Saraste at the 2005 Proms and subsequently performed the concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony/David Robertson and the Tokyo Philharmonic/Marc-Andre Dalbavie. "I love working with him. I love his imagination." says Andsnes of Dalbavie. "He has such a colourful mind and always comes up with interesting thoughts and ideas which are very much reflected in his music. I love how one sound transforms itself into another through a musical chain of events. When he was resident composer in Risor in 2003, it was impressive how Dalbavie had it clear in his mind exactly what he wanted to hear." Preparing for the composition, Dalbavie met with Andsnes several times and heard him in concert often. "I've had a great experience with this pianist, his musicality, and powerful sound. He's both very strong and very soft, which is important to me. His sound is very lyrical, which I wanted to integrate into the concerto, and the lyrical sound of his playing is brought forth through the different materials. When he plays pianissimo, he doesn't make the sound low, but changes its colour. I was very surprised to find a pianist who could play so closely what I thought the music should sound like." Following the performances with the Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchestra, the Abendzeitung wrote, "Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes convincingly played with energy and lyrical sensitivity. (...) the applause was just like after a Tchaikovsky (concerto), with great cheers for the soloist." The CD's title work, The Shadows of Silence by the Danish composer Bent Sorensen (b. 1958), was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for performance by Leif Ove Andsnes in his prestigious 2004-2005 "Perspectives" series. "The Shadows of Silence" is an engaging and unusually textured piece, filled with hushed, trembling sonorities drawn from the extremes of pitch at both ends of the keyboard. ... evocative of an arctic landscape, with glistening watery surfaces stretching across vast spaces. Jagged chords slice through the calm, but there are also impressionistic washes of colour, infinite shades of white. ... The music grows ruminative and halting as it drifts into the distance, blurring into silence. Mr. Andsnes played it with immense subtlety." (The New York Times) Leif Ove Andsnes has said, "I play Shadows of Silence a lot in recitals because I love it so much. ... It is very difficult ... because [Sorensen] demands that you play the same notes many times, very fast but very soft. ... there's a kind of dreamlike landscape to it, which I really love being in. ... There is one thing I have to do which is quite unusual: I have to hum along at the end of the piece. ... When I played it in Carnegie Hall for the first time, the artistic administrator ... offered me a vocal recital the next time.... which I'm not sure I will accept." Witold Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto, composed in 1987-88, is considered the great piano concerto of the second half of the 20th century. In four connected movements, it combines twelve-tone techniques, tonal and polytonal harmonies with hints of Chopin, Ravel, Bach and Eastern European folk music. "With its large, sweeping gestures and dramatic interplay between the soloist and the orchestra, the piano concerto pays homage to this most popular of concert music genres. Yet even while writing a public piece hardly less accessible than the concertos of Prokofiev, Lutoslawski finds ingenious ways to make the music fresh, original and intellectually challenging." (The New York Times, reviewing a performance by Leif Ove Andsnes with the New York Philharmonic) The Times went on to describe Andsnes's playing as "commanding, elegant, incisive, rich with wondrous colours and full of imagination." Gyorgy Kurtag began his Jatekok series (Jatekok means Games in Hungarian) in 1973. When he had completed his Opus 7 in 1968, Kurtag had a case of "writer's block" and decided to set himself the task of analysing works by other composers such as Beethoven, Bartók, Schubert and Debussy. One result was his ongoing series Jatekok, short works for piano solo or piano four hands in which Kurtag comments on the works of these aforementioned composers and on questions that he feels they left behind. The Jatekok are witty, understated, informal works in which the composer plays with ideas and familiar sounds in unfamiliar ways. Andsnes has often included the works on his recital programmes and has chosen eight of them for this recording.