Shadows of Silence

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski; Dulbalvie; Sorensen
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Concertos; Lullabies; The Shadow of Silence
PERFORMER: Leif Ove Andsnes (piano); Bavarian Radio SO/Franz Welser-Möst
CATALOGUE NO: 264 1822

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How nostalgic these moderns are for the good old days! He may be a leading Spectralist, but Marc-André Dalbavie’s Piano Concerto bristles with very traditional-sounding sonorities: the opening fusillade of descending scales and octaves made me wonder if the piece wasn’t a parody of a post-Romantic concerto.

Instead it develops a very French vein of irony, elegance and impressionist tone-colour: nothing here to affright devotees of the Ravel and Bartók concertos (both repeatedly evoked), or of early Messiaen.

Even Lutos√awski’s Concerto, for all its limited aleatoricism and post-serial chromatic vocabulary, has a rhetoric strangely redolent of Rachmaninov, and Bartók once again behind its rhythmic drive. (This is, by the way, the best performance of it I’ve heard, Andsnes outclassing even dedicatee Krystian Zimerman on DG.)

György Kurtág’s tiny miniatures from Games play pithily with shards of tradition, brevity keeping sentiment firmly at bay. But in Bent Sørensen’s two pieces, one short, the other long (The Shadows of Silence, in which we hear Andsnes singing), I felt a distinct vein of sentimentality. I doubt Sørensen aims to be a Cécile Chaminade of our time, but he comes dangerously near it here.

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Perhaps it takes a pianist so magnificently steeped in the mainstream repertoire to bring the necessary authority (and nostalgia) to this oddly mixed bag, but this is a notable addition to Andsnes’s discography. All his virtues are on display here, from the bravura of his flourishes and crispness of his chordal delivery in the two concertos to the intimacy and sensitivity to the tiniest resonances in the solo pieces. Great music? Maybe not, but highly entertaining. Calum MacDonald