The Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes gives good taste a great name. His playing displays no vanity. In a program of Haydn, Bartók, Debussy and Chopin at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Wednesday, Andsnes combined aspects of the introvert and extrovert, the Romantic and Classicist, while remaining fully at the service of each composer’s musical style.
In the opener, Haydn’s moody Sonata in C minor, the pianist made the score’s irregular phrasing sound natural and inevitable. His articulation and dynamic shadings in the opening movement were finely judged, and his warm, rounded tone in the slow movement and finale captivated.
Andsnes employed a more resonant and textured sound for Bartok’s rhythmically engaging Suite for Piano, Opus 14, his varied attacks placing the work’s playfulness, drama and mystery into sharp contrast. In a stunning rendition of Debussy’s Images, Book I, Andsnes’ delicate touch, timing and rhythmic steadiness in “Reflections on the Water,” “Homage to Rameau” and “Movement” quietly drew the listener in. He proved a superlative Debussy interpreter.
In the all-Chopin second half, Andsnes began with graceful readings of Four Waltzes, three from Opus 70. In the more technically demanding and showy Waltz in A flat major, Opus 42, speeds were perfectly judged. Andsnes’ relaxed, serene accounts of Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 and Nocturne in B major, Opus 62, No. 1, were paradoxically gripping. His artful pedaling in Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G minor lent an expressive intensity to its unstoppable forward drive. He dispatched its fearsome coda with apparent ease.
As encores, the pianist offered Chopin’s enchanting Waltz in A flat major, Opus 34, No. 1, and Granados’ lovely Spanish Dance, Opus 37, No. 5 “Andaluza,” both performed with bravura poise and muscular clarity.
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Above: Leif Ove Andsnes. Credit: Felix Broede