Multimedia Concert Divides Critics While Inspiring Audiences as EMI Classics CD for “Pictures Reframed” Hits Top Ten on Billboard Classical Chart
“From the ambling, almost erratic ‘Promenade’ themes that connect the suite’s two halves to the ecstatic crescendo of a finale in ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’, the 135-year-old piece gets a new lease of life in this contemporary context.” – Time Out New York
In the lead-up to the world premiere at New York’s Lincoln Center of “Pictures Reframed”, a Mussorgsky-inspired collaboration between award-winning Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and South African visual artist Robin Rhode, Andsnes called the multimedia project “an amazing adventure, and not without risks,” adding “but hopefully they are risks worth taking.” Judging by the response of audiences and critics, who have reacted vigorously and mostly enthusiastically to it, “Pictures Reframed” is clearly a hit. Among the highlights have been two sold-out performances in New York and news this week that the EMI Classics CD, featuring Andsnes performing the Mussorgsky and Schumann works that inspired the video and still images that Rhode created for the live concerts, has snared the number-six slot on Billboard’s classical bestsellers chart. The “Pictures Reframed” tour is now in Europe, where Belgium’s Le Vif/L’Express magazine observed, “This unexpected clash is already one of the artistic sensations of 2009.” After the last performance of “Pictures Reframed” this fall (in Cologne on Dec 20), Andsnes will return to the U.S. to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with the New York Philharmonic and its new Music Director, Alan Gilbert (on Dec 29 and 30, and Jan 2).
The world premiere of “Pictures Reframed” took place on November 13 at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. As New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini observed, “It was the first of two performances, and the place was packed,” and Lincoln Center confirms that both performances were indeed sold out. The New York Times review noted that the mix of audio and visuals presented something of a sensory overload, but Tommasini concluded that he was “glad to have attended this multimedia experiment.” His and other critics’ reactions to Andsnes’s playing, however, were nearly unanimously positive, with Time calling it “a lucid, beautifully articulated account” and the Financial Times observing, “Leif Ove Andsnes is a brilliant pianist with a wild imagination, a healthy disrespect for tradition, and a technique that makes the impossible seem easy. No one since Horowitz has made Schumann’s ‘Träumerei’ more dreamy or Mussorgsky’s ‘Great Gate of Kiev’ more momentous.”
As the project gained momentum and headed to other cities in North America, it was apparent that Andsnes and Rhode had struck a chord and provoked an abundance of discussion, online and elsewhere. Though there was no performance in California, the San Francisco Classical Voice reviewed EMI Classics’ deluxe CD/DVD edition of “Pictures Reframed” – a beautiful coffee-table book featuring images by Rhodes, the audio recording, and a DVD (featuring the preview performance of “Pictures Reframed” in Risor and a “making of” documentary produced by Norwegian television [NRK])
“Far more than merely another multimedia collaboration for our multitasking, iPod-toting era, it brilliantly illumines Mussorgsky’s achievement in ways that transcend the literalism of words, images, and notes on a page.” - San Francisco Classical Voice