Press Room

Leif Ove Andsnes’s “Beethoven Journey” continues with concertos, US recital tour

Continuing his multi-season “Beethoven Journey,” the celebrated Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes returns to the US early in the New Year for performances of two Beethoven concertos. With David Zinman and the Boston Symphony he performs the First Concerto (Jan 12–14, 17), before turning to the Third Concerto, which he performs with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Herbert Blomstedt (Jan 19–21). As he approaches the 25th anniversary of his official debut as a pianist – a concert in Oslo on March 25 will mark that occasion – Andsnes embarks on an eight-city US recital tour that features performances in Los Angeles (Walt Disney Concert Hall, Feb 8), San Francisco (Feb 9), Morrow, GA (Feb 11), Washington, DC (Feb 12), Savannah, GA (Feb 13), New York, NY (Carnegie Hall, Feb 15), Chapel Hill, NC (Feb 17) and Chicago (Symphony Center, Feb 19). The recital program features works by Haydn and Chopin that Andsnes performed at the time of his debut, but also works that he is playing for the first time – including Bartók’s Suite for Piano as well as the first set of Debussy’s Images, which Andsnes calls “some of the greatest piano music ever written.”
Beethoven’s music figures prominently throughout Andsnes’s 2011-12 season and beyond, with numerous concerto performances and recitals across Europe, North America, and Japan, along with his debut recording for Sony Classical. This fall, Andsnes played Beethoven’s Third Concerto with Jiří Bělohlávek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London and on tour in Spain, and the First Concerto with Andris Nelsons and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra at the Musikverein. In North America, he played the First Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck – his first performance of the work in the US – and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra with Roger Norrington.
Throughout the season, he performs concertos – conducting from the piano – with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Mahler Chamber Orchestra. His May 2012 tour with the latter ensemble includes performances of the First and Third Concertos in Italy, Dresden, Prague and Bergen. The Prague concerts will be recorded live by Sony Classical; they represent the first part of the multi-year “Beethoven – A Journey” project for which Andsnes will play and record all five Beethoven piano concertos.
Following his recent performance in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Tribune observed, “The return of pianist Leif Ove Andsnes after an absence of eight years is cause for celebration. Friday night’s performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at Heinz Hall was boldly conceived without being in the least eccentric.” The Montreal Gazette called his performance of the same work with the Montreal Symphony “absolutely stunning.”
In the Q & A that follows, Andsnes briefly discusses his “Beethoven Journey” and upcoming US recital tour.
Q & A with Leif Ove Andsnes
Q: You’ve now begun your “Beethoven Journey.” Is it true that the only concertos you’ll be playing in the coming few seasons will be by Beethoven?
Andsnes: Yes, I’ll be doing Beethoven Concertos exclusively as my concerto repertoire for next three and a half years, and in the final year I will be playing all five Beethoven concertos multiple times in the same season. I’m extremely happy to give this repertoire such focused attention, as it allows me to think about these pieces in a very different way. To provide additional contrast, I will be playing other pieces around them that I haven’t played before.
Q: Many people have described 2011 as a year of revolution, from the “Arab Spring” to the Occupy Wall Street and other movements. Beethoven’s music is often thought of as revolutionary: are there some illuminating connections to be made here?
Andsnes: I don’t want to make Beethoven into a Marxist or anarchistic composer, but the revolutionary spirit is a big part of him. He did want to provoke the established order and had enormous ambitions to have his music reach out to everyone. But like most great people, Beethoven is also complicated. He was dependent on mentors, and people who gave him money and commissions. He had friendships with Dukes and members of the aristocracy. But surely he is a composer whose music speaks to the 99 percent. In Beethoven’s time, the French Revolution was an enormous upheaval and influenced every aspect of society. And Beethoven was really involved with that society. His music speaks of the human will to achieve something extraordinary through struggle and striving for something better. 

Q: In the coming weeks you’ll be back for a big US recital tour, followed by an extensive tour in Europe as well. Tell us a bit about the program you’ll be playing.
Andsnes: As part of tour I’m playing at the Oslo Opera, a new and wonderful building that opened three or four years ago. It is now 25 years since I made my official debut as a pianist, in Oslo. Some of the pieces on my tour program are works that I played back then. The Haydn Sonata on the program is one I played when I was 16 – it was first classical sonata I studied with my teacher, so I’m happy to be coming back to it. Some of the Chopin pieces are also pieces I’ve played in the past. But the recital mixes old and new territories for me. It will be the first time, for example, that I’ve played a solo piece by Bartók. I’ve done his Second Piano Concerto and chamber music, but I’ve always wanted to do the suite that I’ll be playing on this program.  The program features some other personal favorites, such as the first book of Debussy’s Images. It will be my first tour with these pieces, which are some of the greatest piano music ever written – certainly among the best of the 20th century. 

Q: Tell us more about the Chopin on your program.
Andsnes: It will be a nice mix of salon pieces like the Waltzes, some of which he wrote quite early, and some weightier later works, such as the Third Ballade. Many people have a one-dimensional view of Chopin that isn’t really accurate. When people describe Chopin’s music as pretty, I encourage them to hear the extraordinarily dramatic First Ballade: this is an example that Chopin’s music can be absolutely violent. At one point in the score he writes that you should play “as loud as possible”! There’s a rage at the end of this piece that is intense. His Third Ballade and B-major Nocturne, Opus 62 – both relatively late works – are very sophisticated: they show his complicated character and how he was torn between his love of Italian opera and his love of Bach. In the Nocturnes it’s no longer about the melody and the accompaniment. Rather, it’s about several lines singing. It’s polyphonic, and very rich music. When you compare them to John Field’s Nocturnes, on which Chopin’s were modeled, you understand why Chopin’s are the ones being played today: they are ten times more rich, complicated and diverse.
Leif Ove Andsnes: upcoming engagements (North American dates in bold)
Jan 12-14, 17
Boston, MA
Boston Symphony Orchestra / David Zinman
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1
Jan 19-21
Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia Orchestra / Herbert Blomstedt
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3
Feb 4
Kristiansand, Norway
Haydn: Piano Sonata in C minor, Hob. XVI:20
Bartók: Suite for Piano, Op. 14, Sz. 62, BB 70
Debussy: Images, Set 1 for Piano
Chopin: Ballade Nos. 1 & 3, Waltzes, and Nocturne
Feb 8-19
US recital tour
Feb 8: Los Angeles, CA (Walt Disney Concert Hall)
Feb 9: San Francisco, CA
Feb 11: Morrow, GA
Feb 12: Washington, DC
Feb 13: Savannah, GA
Feb 15: New York, NY (Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium)
Feb 17: Chapel Hill, NC
Feb 19: Chicago, IL (Symphony Center)
Haydn: Piano Sonata in C minor, Hob. XVI:20
Bartók: Suite for Piano, Op. 14, Sz. 62, BB 70
Debussy: Images, Set 1 for Piano
Chopin: Ballade Nos. 1 & 3, Waltzes, and Nocturne

March 9-11
Örebro and Stockholm, Sweden
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concerto Nos. 1 and 3
March 21-April 3
European recital tour
March 21: Schloss Elmau, Germany
March 23: Brussels, Belgium
March 25: Oslo, Norway
March 26: Paris, France
March 28: Birmingham, U.K.
March 29: London, U.K.
March 31: Florence, Italy
April 1: Genoa, Italy
April 3: Berlin, Germany
Haydn: Piano Sonata in C minor, Hob. XVI:20
Bartók: Suite for Piano, Op. 14, Sz. 62, BB 70
Debussy: Images, Set 1 for Piano
Chopin: Ballade Nos. 1 & 3, Waltzes, and Nocturne
April 23-May 1
U.S. recital tour with Matthias Goerne
April 23: San Francisco, CA
April 25: St. Paul, MN
April 27: Kalamazoo, MI
April 28: Detroit, MI
May 1: New York, NY (Carnegie Hall)
Songs by Shostakovich and Mahler
May 9-10
Trondheim, Norway
Trondheim Symphony Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concerto Nos. 1 and 3
May 15-25
European tour with Mahler Chamber Orchestra
May 15: Brescia, Italy
May 16: Lugano, Switzerland
May 17: Torino, Italy
May 18: Bergamo, Italy
May 20: Dresden, Germany
May 22-23: Prague, Czech Republic (includes live recordings)
May 25: Bergen Festival, Bergen, Norway
Stravinsky: Apollon Musagete
Beethoven: Piano Concerto Nos. 1 and 3
May 30
Vienna, Austria
Recital with Matthias Goerne
Songs by Shostakovich and Mahler

June 2
Oslo, Norway
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra
Program TBA
June 7-10
Ojai, CA
Ojai Music Festival
Programs TBA!/LeifOveAndsnes
#          #          #
© 21C Media Group, December 2011

Return to Press Room