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Leif Ove Andsnes keeps Mozart’s ‘momentum’

leif ove andsnes
Leif ove andsnes. (Photo: Twitter)
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leif ove andsnes

Jean-Claude Elias

The writer is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.

Combining the talent of one of the greatest classical pianists alive with the music of one of the most prolific, admired, and influential composers of all times — celebrated Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) — and having the entire album recorded and produced by the prestigious Sony Classical records label can only result in real bliss, a sonic feast for the ears.اضافة اعلان

The new album, titled Mozart Momentum 1786, follows a first album in the same vein that was released last year and that was titled Mozart Momentum 1785. For the orchestral pieces included in both releases, Andsnes is accompanied by the excellent Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Mozart’s piano concerto No. 23 in A major opens the set. How is this one different from the countless other performances and recordings that already exist in the classical repertoire? It is difficult to compare it to, for example, the also brilliant interpretation of the same music by Russian-born American Vladimir Horowitz, which is available on Deutsche Grammophon. Perhaps the comparison is not even relevant, given the superlative playing in both cases. But one is tempted.

What is absolutely delightful here is the crystal-clear sound. Andsnes takes his time and uses a moderate tempo, slightly slower than that of other known performances, allowing you to hear and enjoy each note. The second movement in particular, the moving adagio, is one of Mozart lovers’ favorite pieces amongst the entire huge catalog of the master.

If there is anything in art that is close to perfection, this performance is. Andsnes does not demonstrate just talent and virtuosity, he also shows what great taste he has, given his classy, refined pianistic style. As for the intrinsic sound of the piano used, it is an ideal balance of bass and treble, of powerful and soft.

Another piano concerto featured on the album is the haunting No. 24 in C minor, and that is another major reference work by the celebrated Austrian composer. Since I was a child in love with Mozart’s music, I used to frequently listen to the version interpreted and recorded by the great French-German virtuoso Walter Gieseking (1895–1956), with the accompanying orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan. It has left its mark on me,  the degree of expression and emotion delivered by Gieseking was truly unique.
Andsnes does not demonstrate just talent and virtuosity, he also shows what great taste he has, given his classy, refined pianistic style. As for the intrinsic sound of the piano used, it is an ideal balance of bass and treble, of powerful and soft.
However, when Gieseking and Karajan recorded the concerto in the early 1950s, the technology that prevailed would produce monaural audio only, and the microphones could not capture all that modern digital equipment can today. The difference is noticeable. Stereophonic records became available in the early 1960s. Now I would play Andsnes’ new recording for the ultimate sound quality (and the musician’s superb touch, of course), and Gieseking’s emotional performance just for “old times sake”.

The piano concerto No. 24 in C minor conjures up a darker, more dramatic mood than No. 23 in A major. The harmonies of the minor mode, especially those in the slow second movement, bare Mozart’s typical imprint, one that would be later felt even stronger in his last major work, the Requiem.

The album also features a beautiful Recitative and Aria, sung by German operatic soprano Christiane Karg, the piano quartet No. 2 in E, K493, and the rondo in D, K485.

Andsnes gave the name Mozart Momentum 1785 and 1786 to the series made of the two mentioned albums for a good reason: these were the years when the composer was at the zenith of his talent, inspiration and production.

It is impossible to have a precise and unanimous ranking of the greatest pianists alive, simply because even among experts, opinions vary and possibly conflict. However, every pundit, every music critic, every connoisseur, and every sincere music lover would agree that Andsnes is in the world’s top ten, if not top five.

Mozart has left us a legacy of more than 800 compositions covering virtually all classical genres, though he passed away at the age of 36. His influence extended to the classical composers who came after him, all the way to even pop musicians today.


Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.


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