Leif Ove Andsnes Leads From the Front in Mozart

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Mozart, Bruckner: Leif Ove Andsnes (piano/director); London Symphony Orchestra/Claus Peter Flor (conductor – Bruckner). Barbican Hall, London, 6.5.2016 (CC)

Mozart: Piano Concerto in D minor, K466
Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 in D minor (Third Version, 1889, ed Nowak 1959)

Due to a cancellation by Daniel Harding, Leipzig-born conductor Claus Peter Flor led the Bruckner Third, changing the scheduled edition in the process from Harding’s first version of the score to the third of 1889, in the Nowak edition. For the Mozart, Andsnes himself stepped into the breach, directing from the keyboard.

There was a lot of D minor in this particular evening. Mozart’s darkest concerto – the first concerto Andsnes played with a professional symphony orchestra, in his teens – received a considered performance; one of great assurance yet one that did not quite plumb its depths. Standing to direct the orchestral exposition, Andsnes went on to deliver the piano part with great insight; the Beethoven cadenza enabled him to let rip a little. The central ‘Romance’ flowed, the orchestra aglow; throughout, Andsnes remained preternaturally alert to the orchestra’s contribution. The finale had an iron spine; the three double-basses made their presence felt so as to give the textures extra heft. This was no period-orientated performance: we were rooted firmly in the twenty-first century.

The Bruckner was given a good if not wholly involving performance. Flor is very much a musician’s conductor: not only are there no superfluous gestures, but those he makes are perfectly suited to the ongoing performance. The unfolding of the large first movement was well-judged; special mentions for the quartet of horns, and for the brass en masse in the crushing climaxes. This was a fondly shaped performance; the second movement was full of gentleness, with gorgeous, semi-whispered strings. But despite that, somehow it just didn’t speak deeply enough.

Most successful was the third movement Scherzo, with its superbly articulated opening from the second violins and a delightful Trio marked by gossamer strings. The finale is structurally the least successful movement, not helped by Flor’s rather sour-faced way with the contrasting themes. While it may be sweet to watch Flor literally stamp along with themes, there was less character in the actual sonic delivery; the most character throughout, in fact, came from the woodwind principals. If the return of the symphony’s opening was well managed, given the preceding delivery it could hardly be the great moment Bruckner surely intended.

Colin Clarke

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