Sibelius: Kyllikki, Op. 41
Sibelius: The Birch Tree, Op. 75, No. 4
Sibelius: The Spruce, Op. 75, No. 5
Sibelius: Forest Lake, Op. 114, No. 3
Sibelius: Song in the Forest, Op. 114, No. 4
Sibelius: Spring Vision, Op. 114, No. 5
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3
Debussy: La soirée dans Grenade from Estampes
Debussy: Étude No. 7, Pour les degrés chromatiques
Debussy: Étude No. 11, Pour les arpèges composés
Debussy: Étude No. 5, pour les octaves
Chopin: Impromptu in A-flat Major, Op. 29
Chopin: Étude in A-flat Major from Trois nouvelles études
Chopin: Nocturne in F Major, Op. 15, No. 1
Chopin: Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52
A few days after spending an evening with my fellow Lyonnais Jean-Yves Thibaudet at Carnegie Hall, I was back in the exact same venue, as a matter of fact almost in the exact same seat, for Leif Ove Andsnes, another pianist extraordinaire from the Old Continent, whom I make a point of stalking every time he is in town, usually with my friend Paula, who may be an even bigger fan of his than I am.
So on Monday night the three of us converged into the Stern Auditorium for his annual visit and a cleverly eclectic program that included seemingly random works by celebrated composers such as Sibelius, Beethoven, Debussy and Chopin. Let's face it, whatever combination the man puts together, we will come.
As a hard-core fan of Jean Sibelius, I was thrilled by the inclusion of some of his pieces for solo piano on the program. As if to prove that there's nothing like a musician from Norway to impeccably channel a composer from Finland, Leif Ove Andsnes gave a uniformly brilliant account of the small-scale curiosities. The three movements of Kyllikki beautifully displayed a wide range of lovely colors; the following five precious nuggets evoked the multiple joys of nature in a beautifully understated performance that always made sure to discreetly empathize the little details while keeping the atmosphere delicately breathy and mysterious.
By all accounts Ludwig van Beethoven was not a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, so one has to wonder what on earth he was smoking when writing his surprisingly chirpy Piano Sonata No. 18. In any case, on Monday night we all sat back and immensely enjoyed Leif Ove Andsnes' readily bright and brisk rendition of it, which successfully conveyed the master's trademark intensity and less trademark cheerfulness.
After intermission, we moved on to Claude Debussy with four works that gave the pianist many opportunities to make the most of the composer's relentless inventiveness with, in particular, his superb phrasing technique. From the exotic sounds "La soirée dans Grenade" (The evening in Grenade) to the fascinating textures in "Pour les octaves" (For the octaves), we all happily lost ourselves in Debussyan land.
Our last, but certainly not least, composer on the list was Frédéric Chopin with an appealing cocktail of an impromptu, an étude, a nocturne and a ballade of his, as if to leave no stone unturned. and sure enough, the wide-ranging set clearly demonstrated the endless complexity in form and content of the impressive body of work, the gorgeously lyrical Ballade No. 4 making the perfect ending to a perfect evening.
Or was it? It was not! We actually extended the revelry with a light-as-a-feather Étude in F Minor, Opus 25, and the biggest gift of them all, an irresistible Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53 that gloriously exploded with grandeur, energy and just the right amount of sentiment. Then we really had our perfect ending to a perfect evening.