Leif Ove Andsnes - Horizons
Andsnes here reveals a hitherto hidden side to his art – the salon charmer. Some of the pieces are favourites from his childhood, though it is not every nine-year-old who has tackled Sibelius’s uncharacteristically jolly “Staccato” Etude (from 13 Pieces, c1914) or mastered Chopin’s First Impromptu with such fluency and grace. I liked, too, the drama and sweep he brings to Liszt’s Liebesträume No 3 (though it will not suit everyone’s taste) and his avoidance of cliché, while the Norwegian’s own transcription of Halvorsen’s Chant de Veslemöy (originally for violin), Ibert’s Le petit âne blanc and Debussy’s Clair de lune are played with a beguiling innocence, ravishing tonal finesse and – most important – palpable affection.
Bravura highlights include Gieseking’s effulgent transcription of Richard Strauss’s Ständchen and Smetana’s Am Seegestade (“By the sea”), once a favourite encore of Ossip Gabrilowitsch, reminiscent of Raff’s La fileuse and a rare example of a concert étude that opens in one key (B major) and closes a tone lower! Enterprisingly, Andsnes has tracked down a score of Charles Trénet’s song “Coin de rue” transcribed by the coyly named “Mr Nobody” whom I have no qualms about outing as none other than Alexis Weissenberg. If Cherkassky brings more mischievous humour to the Shostakovich Polka and I harbour a preference for Godowsky’s version of Albéniz’s Tango (“a thin, weak, undistinguished whisp of conventional Hispanicism” – Sorabji) these are minor cavils.
The whole recital is superbly recorded. As Andsnes himself says, “It’s great to see people walk away from a concert with a smile on their face”. This disc has the same effect.