Andsnes sparks Cleveland Orchestra program at Arsht

By Lawrence Budmen

Leif Ove Andses performed Schumann's Piano Concerto Thursday night with Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra. File photo: Erik Berg

Leif Ove Andses performed Schumann’s Piano Concerto Thursday night with Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra. File photo: Erik Berg

After more than a decade’s absence, Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes made a welcome return to Miami Thursday night, playing Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Arsht Center. A winner of the coveted Gilmore Artist Award, Andsnes always displays immaculate technique and secure musicianship. After more than two decades on the concert stage, the maturity and depth of musical insight in his playing now bring even greater brilliance and emotional power.

Conductor Franz Welser-Möst set the tone at the concerto’s outset, bringing a sense of darkness and sadness to the opening wind melody. Andsnes was not afraid to bend a phrase for expressive purposes. At times his playing seemed almost like a reverie, deeply romantic and meltingly beautiful. His dynamic and brilliant rendering of the cadenza was not mere display but firmly integrated into the movement’s structure and momentum. Even at top volume, Andsnes never resorted to pounding or banging.

The second movement Intermezzo was rhythmically agile with the exchanges between piano and orchestra finely contoured. The lower strings assayed the secondary theme with burnished singing tone, spaciously shaped by Welser-Möst. Andsnes found the perfect blend of bold sweep and elegance for the final Allegro vivace, the pianistic lift warm and exhilarating.

Andsnes’ musicianship and sensitivity produce exceptional performances and one hopes he will return to South Florida with greater frequency. Throughout the concerto, Welser-Möst was an admirable collaborator, deftly coordinating balances and giving the splendidly played wind parts due prominence.

The Schumann concerto was framed by two Tchaikovsky works. Despite beautiful orchestral playing, the familiar Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy veered between dispassionate coldness and heated exaggeration. Although the opening wind motif was well articulated, the accompanying harp line was barely audible. Welser-Möst’s tempo in the love theme was too fast and he coordinated the score’s shifting moods in an incoherent manner, the brass dominating textures.

While Tchaikovsky’s last three symphonies are repertoire standards, his first three symphonic essays are also worthy scores and are programmed far too infrequently. The Symphony No. 1 in G minor (“Winter Daydreams”) is filled with typically gorgeous Tchaikovsky melodies and surging drama.

Franz Welser-Möst

Franz Welser-Möst

Welser-Möst delivered a taut, frequently blazing reading. From the first bars, there was an aura of drama. The conductor built the first movement to a fever pitch, the orchestra playing with intensity. He led the Adagio cantabile with almost balletic flow, the anguished melodies resounding with spontaneity.

A light touch whirled around the sylph-like theme of the Scherzo. High-voltage contrasts of volume and instrumental timbres dominated the finale, the strings delineating the fugal writing with great clarity. The final coda was a real barnburner, the brass gleaming and brilliant.

All credit to Welser-Möst for programming a less familiar Tchaikovsky symphony as well as Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3, a work outside the standard repertoire, on next week’s Cleveland program.

Still, it’s unfortunate that the orchestra failed to bring Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you to Miami. Welser-Most and the Cleveland Orchestra gave the New York premiere of the Danish composer’s 30-minute song cycle with soprano Barbara Hannigan this past Sunday night at Carnegie Hall, and the Grawemeyer Award- winning score was received with widespread critical acclaim.

As the Clevelanders’ presence in Miami enters its second decade, it is past time for them to start presenting some of the major contemporary works that the orchestra routinely plays on its home turf and on tour in other cities.

The Cleveland Orchestra repeats the program 8 p.m. Friday at the Arsht Center in Miami.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Fri Jan 22, 2016
at 1:06 pm
No Comments