Leif Ove Andsnes’s performance of Sibelius’s piano works ‘has a magic of its own’

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Sony Classical
WORKS: Impromptus in B minor and E, Op. 5; Kyllikki, Op. 41; 10 Pieces for Piano – Romance in D flat and Barcarola; The Shepherd; Valse Triste; Sonatina No. 1; Bjorken; Branen; Rondino; Elegiaco; 6 Bagatelles; 5 Esquisses
PERFORMER: Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88985408502


Not every piano piece by Sibelius cries out for attention, but there are plentiful treasures as the five volumes covering the gamut – recorded by Leif Ove Andsnes’s fellow Norwegian and good colleague Havard Gimse – demonstrates. Much more, in short, than is found on this careful selection – but predictably it has a magic of its own which Andsnes casts equally, with his pure-source sound and range of colours, over early, middle and late Sibelius. The crystalline cascades of the Impromptu that launches the CD, No. 5 in B minor, could be French impressionist, but the tenor melody is very Nordic – and it’s a preferred range for themes in many of the pieces on this disc.

The cornerstones are the semi-programmatic, almost operatic dialogues between the amorous hero from the Kalevala Lemminkäinen and a teasing maiden of Saari island, Kyllikki, and the haunting Sketches among Sibelius’s last works before the long creative silence that lasted up to his death in 1957. These aren’t the only numbers where an idea, in Andsnes’s words about another piece, ‘turns into something surprising and wonderful’; the two tree pictures from Op. 75 do that too. The noble melody of The Spruce is what sticks in my mind. If only all its companions were here, along with some of the later flower pieces. But what we do have, Sibelius’s own piano-onlyValse Triste with ‘improvement’ by Andsnes possibly excepted, makes up a mesmerising programme. Its ambiguity should inspire individual thoughts and questions in every listener. 

Pure, atmospheric sound by Sony captures the necessary intimacy which is an Andsnes hallmark. 

David Nice