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Warped Perspective

New York
Carnegie Hall
01/20/2005 -  
Franz Schubert: Sonata in D, Op. 53
Bent Sorensen: The Shadows of Silence (world premiere)
Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)

One of the most interesting ways in which Carnegie Hall organizes its concert series is the concept of “Perspectives”. These innovative residencies allow artists to demonstrate their versatility and, in the process, exercise their fantasies and try out their plans for career expansion. The series are always populated by major names, this season including Dawn Upshaw and Michael Tilson Thomas. One visiting faculty member this year is pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, who has an entire chamber music convocation planned this May, a miniature of his Norwegian Risor Festival. At other times, he is appearing as an accompanist and as a “duo recitalist”, a fine line crossed only by the most expert of spin doctors. For this current incarnation, he is only giving a plain vanilla piano recital.

The evening started out badly and never really recovered. The allegro vivace of the Schubert D850 was much too fast, sloppy and, most distressingly, the arpeggiated notes were run together as if they were simply throwaway passages of unnecessary filigree. The scherzo was not at all mindful of that wonderful contrast among various gaits. In Mr. Andsnes’ hands, the walk sounded the same as the dance. The rondo finale was little more than “look how fast I can play” porridge.

At the interval, no less than five local critics convened to discuss. Some, including my companion, thought the second movement well done, but I disagree. I think that it only sounded passable by contrast to the other three. For in this con moto, those beautiful, lyrical lines were simply word-processed in a rather foursquare manner. One of my colleagues stated that "Fred was looking for something a little more Schubertian." Silly me.

I was definitely in the minority at the reviewers’ conclave when the subject of the world premiere piece was broached. Everyone else found The Shadows of Silence, not by Paul Simon but rather Bent Sorensen, not worthy of prime time. However, I rather enjoyed its impressionistic waterplay, a Reflets dans l’eau from a more frigid clime. Perhaps I was simply thrilled to hear a contemporary work that was not dark and urban, but rather sunny and pastoral. Even here, however, Andsnes seemed to be off the beam in spots, producing lingering overtones that one would not think were part of Mr. Sorensen’s original conception.

Andsnes had already revealed himself as somewhat of a pounder, and so the Pictures at an Exhibition went somewhat as our lowered expectations would have dictated. Not that there weren’t bright spots, most notably a dexterous unhatched chick ballet, but overall this was much too loud, much too fast and much too unvarying. I have been to museums with that friend who has to hurry from one painting to the next. Apparently, Mr. Andsnes sees his audience as one with a very short attention span.

My companion and I were the first to leave the hall. We wanted to be out the door quickly, just in case this pianist decided to play an encore.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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