The second event in the Proms’ mini-cycle of Beethoven’s works for piano and orchestra featured the Third Concerto and the Choral Fantasy, with Leif Ove Andsnes playing the solo parts while directing the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO). By now, Andsnes and the ensemble have performed this sequence in more than 50 cities, and their unanimity of purpose is complete. The Norwegian pianist, meanwhile, has communicated his detailed vision for each piece without ever interrupting the flow of his solo line.
Andsnes has always been a remarkably neat player with focus and fine musicality, who never overstates the expressive potential of his material. If anything, there were moments in the outer movements of the Third Concerto, the most vehement of the set, when a shade more character would not have gone amiss; but the Largo’s intricate melodic line was ideally pellucid.
The far rarer Choral Fantasy came over well. There is an extended piano solo at the beginning of the piece that represents in written form the kind of improvisation for which Beethoven was especially admired as a young pianist. Andsnes conveyed its drama and drive in a reading that could have done with more spontaneity, but the positive energy of a work that sounds like a dry run for the finale of the Choral Symphony registered impressively.
This was partly due to the light-toned but vital contribution of the BBC Singers, who were on better form here than in Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden, conducted by David Hill, where some of the tone offered by the higher voices was on the mottled side even while the choir’s collective musicianship remained infallible. On the other hand, the opener, Stravinsky’s neo-classical Dumbarton Oaks Concerto – directed by the MCO’s leader, Matthew Truscott – felt as clean as a new pin.
• On BBC iPlayer until 23 August. Leif Ove Andsnes and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra play Prom 12 on 26 July. The BBC Proms continue until 12 September. Box office: 0845 401 5040.