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Leif Ove Andsnes: summer 2011

After his final concert this season as Pianist-in-Residence of the Berlin Philharmonic, where he will perform Mozart and Dvořák chamber works on June 8, the celebrated Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes prepares for a tour of summer festivals in Norway, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy, plus song recitals in Germany, England, and Switzerland. Andsnes and German baritone Matthias Goerne will perform songs by Mahler and Shostakovich at the Risør Festival, Verbier Festival, and Salzburg Festival; Andsnes will also give solo recitals at the Ruhr Festival, Cheltenham Festival, and Verbier Festival, plus a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Kissinger Sommer Festival.
Andsnes’s solo program this summer is the one he performed in the U.S. and Europe this spring, featuring two piano sonatas by Beethoven (No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, “Waldstein,” and No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111) and works by Brahms (Four Ballades, Op. 10) and Schoenberg (Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19). Following a performance by Andsnes at New York’s Carnegie Hall, the New York Times gave a detailed and enthusiastic account of the performances:
Mr. Andsnes’s bracing “Waldstein” avoided any trace of superficial heroics… Mr. Andsnes played with uncanny steadiness and magisterial sweep…. His playing was impressively pristine, lucid and supple. But the mystery and audacious imagination in the music came through all the more. The slow movement had eerie serenity. How often do you think of the “Waldstein” as wondrously beautiful? That is what Mr. Andsnes achieved… He played Schoenberg’s Six Little Piano Pieces (Op. 19), a set of atonal miniatures, with a riveting combination of spaciousness and impetuosity.
In the Q & A that follows, Leif Ove Andsnes looks ahead to his summer season.
A Conversation with Leif Ove Andsnes
Q: You’ve spent a lot of time in Berlin this season as Pianist-in-Residence of the Berlin Philharmonic. What has that been like?
Leif Ove Andsnes: My residency in Berlin has far exceeded expectations. I feel that I really connected with the orchestra, the audience and with the city in a very special way. It was fantastic to do so many wonderful projects in the season with an audience that is so loyal and keeps coming back and sees different sides of me. The orchestra musicians are at such a high level: they are a joy to make chamber music with. Every concert was a huge hit: the Brahms 2 with Haitink was amazing, and my recital in the small hall was definitely one of the highlights of my 17-city tour. The final concert will be with the Akademie students – you can’t really call them students, because they are superb musicians who are playing regularly with the Berlin Phil.
Q: And the city of Berlin itself?
Andsnes: It’s one of the world’s most exciting cities for art. There’s a feeling that there are so many different things happening there, including a real underground culture. Many artists live there because it’s the most affordable of the big cities in Europe. They can do risky projects there.
Q: What are some of the highlights of your summer season?
Andsnes: I’ll be performing a very intense program of Mahler and Shostakovich songs with Matthias Goerne. We’ll be doing it at the Risør Festival, the Salzburg Festival, and the Verbier Festival, and we’ll also do it at Carnegie Hall next spring. As part of my preparation for performing Mahler, I rediscovered Bernstein’s spoken essay, “The Little Drummer Boy,” which is available on DVD. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Mahler. It brought a completely new dimension to these songs for me. I can’t think of anything by a performer about a composer that is more insightful.
Q: Have you worked with Matthias often before?
Andsnes: We’ve done a Brahms program together, and Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin. He’s fantastic – a real personality. We have an extremely good relationship and I really respect him. He’s one of the greatest artists I’ve ever worked with.
Q: How does it feel to be returning to Risør?
It will be interesting to be in Risør, where I spent 17 years as artistic director. This will be the first time that I’m not holding that position there. I’m really looking forward to stepping back a little and being with the musicians and having some time to enjoy the town and socialize with people.
Q: What else are you looking forward to this summer?
Andsnes: I’m very excited to be giving my first performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. I’ll be doing that at the end of August with La Scala’s orchestra and Maestro Noseda at the Stresa Festival, a wonderful town not far from Milan. Noseda has directed the festival for a few years and loves doing it. Of Beethoven’s five concertos, the first is the only one I haven’t played before. As you study it, you can understand why Richter said it was his favorite. It’s an astonishing piece. It’s quite long – 36 minutes. This piece has all the breadth and vision that was Beethoven.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Ojai Festival in California, where you will be music director in June 2012?
Andsnes: It was truly a strong impression that I got when I visited Ojai recently. It was my first time there and I didn’t expect to have such a powerful reaction. The sheer beauty of the area is just amazing. You drive along the coast toward Santa Barbara and then go a little inland and then suddenly it opens it up. The vegetation is remarkable – so many different trees! And the town is charming. The Park and the Bowl give a strange impression of vast space and intimacy at the same time.
Q: Could you share your thoughts about programming for Ojai?
Andsnes: The programming will be an interesting mix of 20th-century repertoire that has the kind of “gravity” that interests me: pieces by Stravinsky, Janáček, and Ives, among others. I want to bring some Scandinavian contemporary music that hasn’t been played much in Ojai. They’ve done lots of different contemporary music there, but I thought we needed to bring things of a Scandinavian color when it comes to contemporary music. There will be the occasional piece by Beethoven and Mozart – I’m not going to be completely hard-core in selecting music only of our time, and I think the differences will be interesting. There will also be pieces with actors – dramatic and theater pieces. I’m really looking forward to it!
Leif Ove Andsnes: upcoming engagements
June 8
Berlin, Germany
Berlin Philharmonic
Mozart: Quintet for Piano, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn and Bassoon in E-Flat, K 452
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 14, K 499
June 17
Bad Kissingen, Germany
Kissinger Sommer Festival
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K 491
July 2
Risør, Norway
Risør Chamber Music Festival
Mahler and Shostakovich Songs with Baritone Matthias Goerne
July 4
Essen, Germany
Ruhr Piano Festival
July 5
Cheltenham, England
Cheltenham Festival
July 18
Verbier, Switzerland
Verbier Festival
Mahler and Shostakovich Songs with Baritone Matthias Goerne
July 29
Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg Festival
Mahler and Shostakovich Songs with Baritone Matthias Goerne
August 30
Stresa, Italy
Stresa Festival
La Scala Philharmonic/Noseda
Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1!/LeifOveAndsnes

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