Leif Ove Andsnes never leaves anyone in doubt that he is a pianist of great facility. On this, his latest CD, the Norwegian musician – now in his late forties – returns to the music of Frédéric Chopin, a composer whose music he has not recorded since early in his career. This recording features the four ballades – including the notoriously difficult F Major Ballade, Op. 52 – placed alongside three nocturnes. In his choice of repertoire for this CD, Andsnes does not imply any particular connection between the featured works. However, due to his interspersing three nimbler nocturnes among Chopin’s four denser ballades, the listener can better appreciate the broad musical gamut of this composer’s works.
In his interpretation of Op. 52, Andsnes navigates the notorious technical challenges of this work with ease. So too in the Nocturne No 13 in C Minor Op. 48/1.The playing is polished and technically solid, qualities we have come to expect from Andsnes. Yet throughout this recording there is a longing for more elasticity in the interpretation. What is always a deciding aspect of the performance of these works is the performer’s ability to achieve the very subtle relationship between the tempi within one work. Andsnes’ rubatos are minimal and, like that crucial ingredient in a favourite recipe, if these are lacking, something is just not satisfying about the final result.
One particular performance however does surpass the rest – Andsnes’ interpretation of the F Major Nocturne, No 1/15. It is here that we get a glimpse of what is possible, when Andsnes relaxes the tempi and utilises that remarkable technique of his to create a poetic performance of this nocturne, an andante cantabile. Indeed, this performance has just the right amount of everything. Leif Ove Andsnes at his finest.
Composition: Ballades and Nocturnes
Performer: Leif Ove Andsnes p
Catalogue Number: Sony 19075822932