Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Leif Ove Andsnes tackles Rachmaninov

Andsnes tackles Rachmaninov's massive chords and rippling chromatic harmonies with deceptive ease.

Leif Ove Andsnes 

Rachmaninov Piano Concertos 3 & 4. Antonio Pappano (cond), London Symphony Orchestra (EMI) 

????

Leif Ove Andsnes has always seemed a mild sort - a prodigiously talented pianist, of course, but with that characteristic Norwegian calmness. The black-and-white cover of his new recording of Rachmaninov's third and fourth piano concertos tells a different story, as he stares belligerently out, enveloped in a heavy black coat. 

That is, perhaps, more a reflection of the moody, uncomfortable fourth concerto, rarely performed, unfairly derided at the time of its first performance, and revised again and again before the final, fascinating 1941 version, played here. 

Composed while Rachmaninov was living in America, in exile from revolutionary Russia, it is notable for its percussive textures, fleeting themes and syncopated rhythms - often compared to the work of his contemporary Gershwin - and it is certainly very different from the better-known and fiendishly difficult third concerto (the work that notoriously defeated Geoffrey Rush's David Helfglott in the film Shine). 

Having previously recorded the first two piano concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra and Antonio Pappano, Andsnes seems perfectly at home with the same team on these works, tackling those massive chords and rippling chromatic harmonies with what sounds like (but surely can't be) ease. Where sometimes perhaps his jabbing staccato rhythms feel, for modern ears, a little harsh in the lyrical third concerto, and the rubato a touch too free in the fourth, it's certainly in keeping with Rachmaninov's own recorded performance style.

Also out in classical 

Nicola Benedetti Tchaikovsky/Bruch: Violin Concertos. Jakub Hrūsa (cond), Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon) The Scottish violinist won the 2004 BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, which resulted in a six-album deal. Here she abandons her slightly over-serious repertoire of Taverner, Macmillan and the like in favour of two of the violin canon's most loved works.

Jonas Kaufmann Verismo Arias. Antonio Pappano (cond), Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Decca) The handsome visage of the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann might just be enough to put more serious listeners off, but don't mistake this for the over-marketed crossover work of the likes of Il Divo or Andrea Bocelli. In his short career, Kaufmann has received critical acclaim in serious stage roles at Covent Garden and elsewhere, and here his lyrical phrasing is put to good use on an unusual selection of Italian arias.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National