Tonight Leif Ove Andsnes plays the Beethoven First Piano Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Royal Festival Hall. As I write he’s probably just about now presenting the Chamber Music award at this year’s Gramophone Awards. But yesterday he was in the business centre of my building talking Beethoven for a podcast due to be edited and mixed over the next few days. I always strive to make these podcasts into intimate and free-wheeling conversations and Andsnes welcomed the informality.
Beethoven always stimulates lively debate and one thing that emerged here was the issue Haydn and Mozart’s influence in his first and second piano concertos. Andsnes thinks it’s overplayed believing that Beethoven is Beethoven from the very start. The opening of Concerto No.1 with those mundane C major chords- very unassuming, nothing to write home about. And then…. the first surprise. The second is the lengthy slow movement – the longest in any of the concertos with an operatic clarinet part (thank you, Mozart) that at times threatens to usurp the keyboard.
More where this came from in the podcast (look out for it over the next few days)… In the meantime I’ve been sampling the first release and toughness and drama in the first and third concertos is terrifically arresting with no holds barred either from Andsnes or the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
Andsnes, it seems, particularly liked my remark that Beethoven’s slow movements seem to find their own space. They do.