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Leif Ove Andsnes/Marc-André Hamelin review – irresistible power and superb team

A two-piano recital is a peculiar thing. It’s chamber music, but who’s playing what? On a small stage such as the Wigmore’s, with the two instruments slotted together like interlocking tiles, the sound seems to emerge from a single, truly grand piano. Alone, Marc-André Hamelin and Leif Ove Andsnes are very different players – the first typically cool, crisp and detached, the second more lyrically inclined. Together, they melded these qualities into an ideal balance; neither had lost his individuality, but the team was the thing.

The two have recently recorded a Stravinsky disc together, and his music dominated their programme, through to the light-footed encores, his Tango and Circus Polka. In the first half we heard the Concerto for Two Pianos Stravinsky wrote in the 1930s to perform with his son Soulima. It is of its time, sombre, heavy and slightly dry, but after a briefly murky start, Andsnes and Hamelin found a way of making its layers transparent and light. It was leavened by the works either side – first, Mozart’s Larghetto and Allegro in E flat, with Hamelin playing cat to Andsnes’s mouse, then Debussy’s sweeping En Blanc et Noir.

It was Debussy with whom Stravinsky first played his two-piano version of The Rite of Spring. Even if the listener is unconsciously filling in some of the colour and detail of the orchestral version, it still holds its own as the biggest beast of the two-piano repertoire, and Andsnes and Hamelin’s performance had the irresistible power and momentum of a juggernaut.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian
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