Leif Ove Andsnes – Henri LeBoeuf Hall, Brussels

Just before I went on holiday, I was lucky enough to catch Leif Ove Andsnes playing Beethoven 5 in Brussels. It’s the second time I’ve heard that piece although previously it was with Daniel Barenboim as soloist.

Leif, I have always wanted to hear, playing the Nokia jingle if that was what it would take. I’ve missed concerts before for various reasons.

He was excellent. There is something quite delicate about how he plays, and he fades into the music. I enjoyed it very much. I’m sorry in one way to have been sitting behind him up high.

Beethoven 5 is one of my favourite concert pieces – up there with Saint Saens 5 and Rach 2 – and for a while it was a piece I did not think people could play disappointingly. Barenboim was somewhat disappointing the night I heard him play. It made me think that that concerto in particular is maybe a younger man’s game. Andsnes is one of those younger men and he made it count.

Evgeny Kissin at Flagey, June 20, 2023

I discovered quite by chance that Evgeny Kissin was playing in Brussels in June, so I went looking for a ticket. This was…difficult. I believe I got the last one. I want to thank the group of three that booked 3 of the last four seats. Made my life easier.

I have been fangirling over Evgeny Kissin for a very long time. He put out an album called the Chopin Album, sometime around 1994 or 1995 which I found out about on a programme on BBC Radio 4 (198kHz LW back in the day). It sounded interesting, they spoke highly of this [then] young talent, with plenty of assurance and a very promising album of piano music recorded in Carnegie Hall. I bought it as soon as I could find it. To this day, one of the best collections of Chopin music that I have ever heard and a comprehensive collection of the man’s stuff. What particularly stood out for me when I was like, 22 years old, was the 3rd Sonata.

Hearing him live was, for a long time, a dream objective. I caught him touring Hammerklavier pre-Covid, but this time, he presented an altogether more varied programme, including some Bach (never my favourite), some Chopin and some Mozart, before a second half devoted to Rachmaninov. The Chopin was one of the Polonaises, which I remember from the album I mentioned above. That being said, someone in the meet and greet queue tried to persuade me it could not possibly be Chopin.

Well it was. Definitely Chopin. I loved it. I’ve never heard it played with such verve, such imagery. If I had to choose a word to describe it, I would choose the word “cinematic”. Huge epic scenes swirled across the edges of my imagination as he played.

I am not yet very familiar with the Rachmaninoff solo repertoire apart from the preludes (which isn’t very logical to me as I otherwise love Rachmaninoff) but the performance was superlative and the couple of pieces I did recognise (the closing prelude in C sharp minor aside….) were mind altering.

The special thing about this concert is although he is very definitely the best concert pianist in the world, he makes you want to play. He is very, very inspiring to watch/listen to.

For me, this is one of the very best solo piano concerts I have been to. I would have gone again if it had been practically possible for me to do so.