GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16. SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in
A minor, Op. 54.
Leif Ove Andsnes, pianist; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
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The final issue of Schwann/Opus (2001) listed more than
four dozen recordings of the Grieg concerto, almost an equal number
Schumann, with about a dozen coupling them together. Since
that time there have been many new entries—listed on ArkivMusic you
now will find over ninety recording of the former, more than a
hundred of the latter. These range from "historic" recordings
of the Grieg (including Ignaz Friedman's pooly-played 1926 recording,
and one with Percy Grainger dating from 1945 in Hollywood Bowl
with Stokowski conducting in which the pianist gets worse technically
as the performance progresses). Perhaps the most notable "historic" recording
of the Schumann is the one
by 78-year old Emil von Sauer recorded live in 1940 with Mengelberg
and the Concertgebouw in which his noble, grandiose intentions
are betrayed by his fingers.
My favorte recording of both concertos for decades has been
the 1960 Leon Fleisher/ Szell/Cleveland Orchestra Epic version,
recently reissued in a super remastering
from open-reel tape and sounding better than ever (see REVIEW).
I also treasure Tahra's issue of the Grieg (Gilels) and Schumann
(Arrau) with Jochum and the Concertgebouw, unfortunately now deleted
(see REVIEW). Those are now strongly
challenged by this magnificent new version with
Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and the Berlin Philharmonic
conducted by Mariss Jansons. Both soloist and conductor display
extraordinary sensitivity to both scores, with imaginative solo
phrases echoed by the orchestra. Andsnes is in top form making
a brilliant event indeed of the Grieg's first-movement cadenza,
recorded in sessions in December 2002
Hall. The Schumann is from live performances in that hall the same
month. John Fraser produced both recordings with Arne Akselberg
engineer. The sound picture is broad and spacious, with solid piano
sound and a rich-sounding Berlin Philharmonic. If you're interested
in these two concertos you surely should investigate
Mariss Jansons has started a Mahler symphony cycle with the Oslo
Philharmonic on Simax with release of symphonies 1 and 9 which
I've not heard. But I have heard a magnificent Mahler Third live
with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and a stunning Mahler Seventh—a
live performance with the
Royal Concertgebouw which augurs well for his upcoming musical
directorship of that orchestra which has such a strong Mahler tradition.
This live LSO performance of Symphony No. 6 was recorded
performances in London's Barbican Hall in November 2002, which
adulatory press comments largely deserved judging from what
is heard on this recording. Jansons elects to perform the Andante before
the Scherzo, rather unusual in today's performances and
recordings. In spite of its manifold pluses, this performance simply
much quality competition to be a serious contender for collectors.
A major factor is the sound. In spite
James Mallinson and engineer Tony Faulkner, what is heard on this
recording is rather dry and harsh; the luxurious string sonorities
to be heard in many competing versions (including Thomas, Bernstein,
Haitink and Karajan) simply aren't to be heard—nor do
the three hammer blows in the finale have sufficient impact. We
can hear, though, many exclamations from Jansons. This is issued
two CDs for the price of one with a total playing time of 81:52.
I'd wait until (and if) Jansons records it with the Concertgebouw.
R.E.B. (Octoer 2003)