The current catalog already offers CDs by 80 soloists of Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto and 105 of his Fourth, including readings of both works by such living legends as Aimard, Brendel, Goode, Kissin, Lupu, Perahia, Pletnev, Pollini, Schiff, Uchida, and Zimerman. This new entry by the Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes (who also conducts the Mahler Chamber Orchestra here) nonetheless conveys engaging performances that combine clarity and insight with impeccable pianism. Andsnes infuses the Second Concerto with a sense of grace traditionally considered Mozartian — not inappropriately, since Beethoven began sketching this piece when Mozart was still dominating the piano-concerto business and one often senses the earlier master’s presence in this work. But the selling point for this CD is really the Fourth Concerto, which receives a luminous, carefully plotted interpretation. The Mahler Chamber Orchestra is an adept but not quite top-drawer ensemble, and Andsnes is an avocational conductor; the combination invites numerous oversights in the details. In the Fourth Concerto, for example, the second movement accords in spirit with the score’s indication that the orchestra recede into the background as the music unrolls, and yet the actual dynamics often don’t quite correspond to Beethoven’s markings; and although the composer indicated that the third movement should begin at precisely the same volume as the second ends, it is louder here.
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