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Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes first recorded the Grieg Piano Concerto in 1990 (at the tender age of 20), coupling it with Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2. The disc was well received, and since then Andsnes has carved out a formidable reputation investigating some of the lesser-known byways of the piano repertoire. His delightful disc of Haydn concertos won a Gramophone Award in 2000, and in 2001 he realised a cherished ambition to record a selection of Grieg's Lyric Pieces on Grieg's own piano at Troldhaugen. It was therefore a bold decision on EMI's part to proceed with a second recording of the Grieg, and to couple it with a concerto frequently its twin on disc. (There are currently at least nineteen discs available featuring both concertos, of which four belong to EMI.) However, EMI clearly knew what they were doing - this new disc is stunning. Andsnes clips two minutes off his previous version, but this is no race to the finish. The fast passages are brilliant, urgent and impassioned, while the slower sections are more contemplative and reflective than before, played with a wonderful poetry. The slow movement is a real Adagio, warmly majestic, and Andsnes makes the most of the folk-theme basis of the finale with playing that is by turn tautly rhythmic, sweetly yearning and, finally, blazingly passionate. One feels that Liszt, to whom Grieg showed the work, would have thoroughly approved! The Schumann also gets a splendid performance, and the Berlin Philharmonic under Jansons are the perfect partners for Andsnes, producing a truly exhilarating sound. Bravo!
Reviewed by Anne McAlister