Leif Ove Andsnes Interview - a world-renowned pianist will play Brahms for Chicago

Norwegian piano virtuoso and well known chamber musician Leif Ove Andsnes will be performing tomorrow, April 10, 2016, at Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue, as part of the Symphony Center Presents PowerShares QQQ Piano series. The performers will include James Ehnes, violin, replacing Christian Tetzlaff, expecting the imminent birth of a child, Tabea Zimmermann, viola, and Clemens Hagen, cello. These stellar musicians will be presenting “The Complete Brahms Piano Quartets”, a group of three “jewels of the beloved composer’s output” not often performed together.

Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes

Andsnes, a much decorated, highly praised and exceptionally prolific performer, and the son of two music teachers, debuted with the Berlin Philharmonic at 22. He has won 10 Spellemannprisen (Norwegian Grammys), and been given Norway’s most distinguished honor, Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. He was the recipient of a 1998 Gilmore Artist Award, or “genius grant”. The winner of 6 Gramaphone awards, he was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2013. Nominated for 8 Grammy Awards, he now records solely for Sony Classical.

Among Andsnes’ more recent activities include the completing of his high profile, multi-season  “Beethoven Journey” with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MC0), which included performing Beethoven’s “Five Piano Concertos” in residencies around the world. With Andsnes actually leading the orchestra from the keyboard, they recorded the works; the recording of Beethoven’s Concertos 2 and 4 won the BBC Music “Recording of the Year” award for 2015.

Just this week, "Concerto: A Beethoven Journey", a documentary by British director/filmmaker Phil Grabsky, starring this world acclaimed pianist hit the U.S. theaters after receiving a warm welcome in Europe. Gramaphone reported of the film, "Concerto demands to be seen. It is a wonderfully uplifting and rewarding experience".

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes

Just prior to his much-anticipated concert here in Chicago, this reviewer had the opportunity to interview Andsnes. Some of his spontaneous, well-put and pertinent remarks follow:

The “Beethoven Journey”, finished last summer, was a several years long project in which he wanted to delve deeply into the work of one composer, and specifically, he “felt the need for spending time with Beethoven.” As well as the five piano concertos, he also performed 10 solo piano sonatas of Beethoven, some of Beethoven’s chamber music, and other pieces. The experience was “very wonderful”. His experience with the MCO, during which he “played and conducted at the same time was an intense collaboration” there for three years, which “produced such freedom and trust between the players”. Beethoven’s work is “a universe in itself, the diversity is greater than (in) anyone else, an inexhaustible wealth”.

Andsnes has been associated with music festivals for many years. He was co-director of the Risor Festival for 17 years, through 2010. The experience “was the most informative thing met in my career, knowing people, understanding music”. Through this experience, he learned “a lot of contemporary music”. He will be starting another small festival, the Rosendal, this summer, “a long weekend with 7 or 8 programs in August”. The theme will be “1828”, about the last year of  Schubert’s life, a time of extraordinary output for the great composer; Andsnes wonders if Schubert had a presentiment of his own end.

Leif Ove Andsnes

Asked how he chose the all- Brahms program, the pianist explained he’s “loved Brahms chamber music for many years”. The four core performers played the first quartet together in 2010 at a Brahms perspective during the Salzburg festival, and have talked since about playing all of them together as a group.

He described the first 2 quartets as “in a way, the young Brahms, written very close together, Opus. 25 and 26,  they display a kind of abundance”. The first one has “a very catchy last movement, a gypsy feeling”, and has also been orchestrated by Schoenberg. If asked to choose his favorite, it might well be the second, which has not been performed as often. It is “an enormous work, 55 minutes, so filled with beauty everywhere”. He loves the “sheer excitement” of these two; they are “so rich and symphonic”. The third one was written “much later “in Brahms’ life, and “is more compact”.

Andsnes, the father of three young children, whose partner is also a professional musician admits ,“It’s difficult to travel all the time”. He now only travels half the year, in an effort “to balance” his life. We are thrilled that he’s travelled to Chicago!

Chamber musician and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes

For tickets to this and other great concerts at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, go to www.cso.org



Photos courtesy of Oezguer Albayrak


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