October 7, 2020

Leif Ove Andsnes – “one of the finest musicians working” (Washington Post) – returns to the concert hall this month. On a German tour that culminates at the Berlin Philharmonie, he leads the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) in accounts of Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 20–22 (Nov 5–8). The tour marks the first live orchestral concerts of “Mozart Momentum 1785/1786,” his second major multi-season partnership with the orchestra. Meanwhile, concertos from the same transformative period of Mozart’s career are the vehicle for Andsnes’s upcoming collaborations with three Scandinavian orchestras: he plays Nos. 21 and 24 with the Swedish Radio Symphony (Oct 8), No. 22 with the Bergen Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (Oct 29) and Nos. 22 and 24 with the Trondheim Symphony (Oct 22 & 23). October also brings Norway’s national telecast of “To Hope”: Leif Ove Andsnes and friends in Rosendal 2020 (Oct 11), a concert film replacing this year’s Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, of which Andsnes is the founding director. To round out the fall season, the celebrated Norwegian pianist gives a solo recital of Mozart, Beethoven, Dvořák and Janáček in the “Cal Performances at Home” series (Dec 3), available for live and on-demand streaming to audiences worldwide.

Mozart Momentum 1785/1786

When Andsnes played Mozart’s Concertos Nos. 21 and 22 with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra earlier this year, the Star Tribune marveled: “He would be on many critics’ shortlists of the top ten pianists in the world at present, and these opalescent, intellectually pleasing performances of Mozart concertos showed why.” With “Mozart Momentum 1785/1786,” Andsnes and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra explore what is not only one of the most creative and seminal periods of the composer’s career but also one of the most remarkable periods in classical music history. In 1785 and 1786, Mozart wrote a series of masterpieces that would forever change the piano concerto. He re-examined the roles of the soloist and orchestra, discovering new possibilities for communication and dialogue between them. By showcasing the transformative part Mozart played in the genre’s development, Andsnes and the MCO hope to present a rich portrait of the Classical master at the top of his game. The pianist explains:

“When you realize how quickly Mozart developed, it is truly extraordinary. Within a year his concertos sound completely different. The diversity of the five concertos written in these two years is unbelievable. He’s at this place where he has total mastery.”

The German tour takes Andsnes and the MCO to Ludwigshafen (Nov 5), Ludwigsburg (Nov 6) and Berlin (Nov 8), where they look forward to recording the concertos for future release by Sony Classical. He says:

“When you go on several tours with the same musicians, performing the same works for so long, you reach a special, shared understanding of the colors, emotions, and musical character you’re all trying to evoke. This common goal can make for a great feeling of spontaneity in live performance.”

Andsnes became the MCO’s inaugural Artistic Partner for the “Beethoven Journey,” a monumental four-year project highlighted by their complete Beethoven concerto cycles at live residencies in New York, London, Vienna, Paris, Lucerne, Bodø, Bonn, Hamburg, Shanghai and Tokyo, as well as on an award-winning recording series for Sony Classical. His outstanding musical rapport with the orchestra was such that Gramophone marveled: “There’s so much more to this partnership than just exceptional playing; there’s a palpable sense of discovery.” As The Guardian put it: “You’d be hard put to find a pianist and orchestra better matched.”

“Cal Performances at Home”: livestreamed solo recital

Mozart’s C-minor Fantasia dates from the same seminal period of Mozart’s career. When Andsnes performed the work at London’s Wigmore Hall last winter, The Arts Desk compared his interpretation to “the music of the future glimpsed by a prophet with dark visions to impart.” Now the pianist looks forward to reprising the Fantasia for his appearance in UC Berkeley’s “Cal Performances at Home” series. Scheduled to stream live from his home in Norway on December 3 and to remain available on demand until March 3, Andsnes’s solo recital will also include Beethoven’s beloved “Pathétique” Sonata and selections from two great Czech cycles: Janáček’s On an Overgrown Path, Book 1, as heard on the pianist’s acclaimed Erato recording, and Dvořák’s little-known Poetic Tone Pictures. Describing this last as “prime-time Dvořák,” Andsnes explains:

“For each one he came up with a very simple folksong-like musical idea, but then in the middle of each piece, it changes character and he elevates it into something poetic, spiritual and deep. After starting from a simple idea, each piece ends up telling a big story. With his harmonies and characterization, Dvořák has a very special talent for that.”

“To Hope”: Leif Ove Andsnes and friends in Rosendal 2020 to debut on Norwegian TV

Founded by Andsnes in 2016, the annual Rosendal Chamber Music Festival takes place in Norway’s Baroniet Rosendal Manor House and Gardens, an idyllic 17th-century estate dubbed “a utopian place for utopian musicians” (The Arts Desk, UK). A high point of this summer’s festival was to have been the first performance of a new chamber work by Norwegian composer-saxophonist Marius Neset, a “master of remarkable saxophonic technique” known for his “complex, Nordic-folk-influenced compositions” (London Jazz News). Despite being forced to postpone the 2020 festival, Andsnes succeeded in presenting a single, closed concert in August, with Neset’s world premiere as its centerpiece. Also presenting chamber works by Beethoven – performed, like the new composition, by the pianist, composer-saxophonist and other Norwegian artists – the concert was captured on film in full. Interspersed with accompanying interviews, also conducted at Rosendal, the resulting 75-minute film is scheduled to debut on Norwegian television on October 11.

Planning for the 2021 festival is already well underway, so the original 2020 programming, designed to celebrate Beethoven at 250, has been postponed till summer 2022. All the previously engaged musicians have been invited to return, receiving a percentage of their fees for this year’s canceled concerts in the meantime. Andsnes comments:

“These are difficult times for freelance artists and I am relieved that we were able to compensate this year’s guest musicians, at least in part, and re-invite them to Rosendal. I am also glad that the Rosendal stage was not completely silent this summer and that the world premiere of Marius Neset’s new work still took place, be it under altered circumstances.”

Since many of Andsnes’s own recent engagements have also fallen victim to the pandemic, he was delighted to take part in the Bergen International Festival’s extensive online offerings this spring. Besides giving a solo recital of Schubert and Jörg Widmann and playing chamber works by Schumann and Beethoven, he performed Mozart concertos, first with the Bergen Philharmonic under Edward Gardner, and then with the Oslo Philharmonic, which he led from the keyboard in the festival’s final concert.

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Leif Ove Andsnes: fall engagements

Oct 8

Stockholm, Sweden

Swedish Radio Symphony (directing from keyboard)

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24

(Livestreamed performance without audience)

Oct 22 & 23

Trondheim, Norway

Trondheim Symphony Orchestra (directing from keyboard)

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24

Oct 29

Bergen, Norway

Bergen Philharmonic Youth Orchestra / Jan Willem de Vriend

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22

Nov 5–8

German tour with Mahler Chamber Orchestra (directing from keyboard)

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 20

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22

Nov 5 (two performances): Ludwigshafen (BASF-Feierabendhaus)

Nov 6 (two performances): Ludwigsburg (Forum Ludwigsburg)

Nov 8: Berlin (Berlin Philharmonie)

Dec 3 at 7pm PST (10pm EST)

Cal Performances livestream

Ticketed; subsequently available on demand until March 3

MOZART: Fantasia in C minor, K. 475

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 13, “Pathétique”

JANÁČEK: Selections from On an Overgrown Path, Book 1

DVOŘÁK: Selections from Poetic Tone Pictures, Op. 85

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© 21C Media Group, September 2020