Leif Ove Andsnes review – genial but bland

Barbican, London
The Norwegian pianist’s performance was technically and musically, but lacked personality and risk

Leif Ove Andsnes’s recital was a legacy from last season, when he featured in one of the LSO’s artist portraits. The solo appearance that was part of that residency had to be postponed, and rescheduling it now, Andsnes stuck more or less to his original programme, or at least to the same collection of composers: Beethoven, Sibelius, Debussy and Chopin.

There was, though, something rather routine about it all. The Beethoven sonata with which Andsnes opened, the E flat Op 31 No 3, promised better in its clear outlines, clean textures and crisply sprung rhythms. It wasn’t especially characterful or witty, just a genial, well-mannered account of the most easygoing of the Op 31 sonatas. The piano pieces by Sibelius, though, needed something more than good manners to make them seem worthwhile. Andsnes had plundered several collections to make his sequence, from the Impromptus of the early 1890s to the weird, spiky Rondino of 1912, and the Schumann-like Elegiaco of a few years later, but there was never enough personality, in the music or the performances, to make them memorable.

What Andsnes always offers is a sense of the immaculate, technically and musically. But it’s risk-free pianism, it never goes out on a limb to make a point or achieve an effect, to create anything genuinely surprising. Debussy’s Estampes was remarkable only for its sheer blandness, all local colour bleached away, while it was quite an achievement to make one of Chopin’s greatest achievements, the F minor Ballade, so unexciting: all the notes were there, in precisely the right places, but what they added up to wasn’t clear.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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