Bergen International Festival
May 25 2012
Two little blokes they were; one about ten, his brother - with round glasses - about eight. Both had number two crewcuts; both looked sharpish. At interval they'd taken advantage of losing their parents in the crowd and of the sample chocolates and the promo-coffee with a kick like a moose. The nuclear grade coffee evidently did the trick. They sat alert in the middle of the front row almost immediately behind the pianist - who had his back to the audience - and absorbed the entire concerto: Beethoven's third.
The kids probably had no idea of the standard of the music they were listening to but the sell-out crowd did. At the end they roared approval. Two and a half thousand people leaped to their feet and not just because Andsnes was the home-boy made good - very good.
The playing was simply superb. Beautiful Beethoven. Perfect piano concerto-making.
Early on there were a number of indicators that this was to be. The first - and most obvious - was that the piano faced the orchestra - or, if you will - the pianist had his back to the audience. The second was that the pianist, when conducting, made no extravagant arm movements, no tortured hand gestures, no doubling-up in an agony of music making, no stamping of the foot to emphasise the down beat to bring in the brass: all gestures used by "maestro" Jensen conducting the NDR Radiophilharmonie in the same hall a few days later. The third, at the end, was that his orchestra loved him. They smiled at him - and each other - and applauded him because he had evidenty rolled in and said, "You blokes (men-blokes and more than 50% women-blokes) know what you are doing, I know what I am doing, let's go out there and do it". And they did. He treated his young players with respect and they responded with relaxed, precise, skilled music making.