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Leif Ove Andsnes’s “Beethoven Journey” takes him to Los Angeles

On the heels of lavishly praised, season-opening concerts with the New York Philharmonic – as well as winning his sixth Gramophone Award – the celebrated Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes continues his multi-season “Beethoven Journey” project with four concerts (Oct 4-7) on the West Coast. Together with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, Andsnes will play Beethoven’s First and Third Piano Concertos, the two works Andsnes plays and directs from the keyboard on a new recording with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra for Sony Classical – his first release in a new, exclusive relationship with the label. From Southern California, where the pianist recently made headlines as Artistic Director of the Ojai Festival, Andsnes heads back to Europe for several Beethoven concerts this fall, performing the First Concerto with the Munich Philharmonic under Thomas Dausgaard (Oct 24-28); the First and Third Concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra on a five-nation tour (Nov 14-21); and the Third Concerto with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin led by Gianandrea Noseda (Nov 28 & 29). Beethoven’s music will also figure prominently on a six-city European recital tour program Andsnes will present with one of his most frequent collaborators, violinist Christian Tetzlaff (Dec 9-17).
Andsnes’s 2012-13 season began with a festive flourish, with season-opening concerts with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic that were enthusiastically received. Anthony Tommasini observed in the New York Times:
“True to form, Mr. Andsnes’s performance of the Third Concerto here combined effortless brilliance and scrupulous integrity. … Mr. Andsnes’s playing had affecting naturalness and self-effacing beauty. Every note spoke; every phrase was shaped with grace; every rhythmic detail and harmonic twist came through vibrantly without anything seeming fussed over or underlined: qualities matched by the lithe, emphatic playing of the orchestra.
“At times you might have thought that Mr. Andsnes was taking exceptionally brisk tempos, especially during the final rondo, played with zest, crispness and imagination. Actually it was the uncanny clarity and lightness of his playing that made the tempo seem faster than it was. Yet what I will most remember is the tranquil elegance and nobility he brought to the slow movement.”
Reviewing for the Financial Times, Martin Bernheimer called Andsnes, “Impetuosity personified,” noting: “Andsnes stressed speed and bravado where others – older others, in most cases – strive for nobility and grandeur. Still, the Norwegian virtuoso made a persuasive argument for Beethoven as muscular hero rather than subtle poet, and he did sigh with introspective ardour in the Largo. Gilbert and the orchestra served as consistently worthy partners.”
While in New York, Andsnes turned to Beethoven’s solo piano music, giving his only scheduled recital in the city this season when he played the Sonatas Nos. 21 and 22 at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space. Webcast live by WQXR, Andsnes also talked with host Jeff Spurgeon about his deep immersion into Beethoven’s music. That performance and discussion can be streamed at the WQXR website.
A centerpiece of the “Beethoven Journey” is Andsnes’s plan to perform and record all five of the composer’s piano concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The first installment in the series was issued in September, a pairing of the First and Third Piano Concertos that was quickly named Classical FM’s CD of the Week:
“Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes captures the sparkling spirit behind Beethoven’s first and third piano concertos in this characterful recording with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. [He] dances over the keyboard with ease as he tackles the flighty classical piano melodies of the Piano Concerto No. 1, injecting a sense of cheeky personality into the music – perfectly suited to Beethoven’s lively tunes! The album is a journey in itself, moving from joyful wit to moments of stately elegance. The interplay between the piano and orchestra is just another reason to enjoy the music. It’s an album imbued with personality and charm, polishing Beethoven’s timeless works of genius and bringing them smiling into the 21st Century.”
The new album is available both as a “Mastered for iTunes” title and on compact disc
Andsnes was on hand September 27 for the annual Gramophone Awards ceremony in London. There he performed Granados’s Spanish Dance No. 5 and picked up his sixth Gramophone Award, this one in the chamber music category, for his set of Schumann’s complete works for piano trio with violinist Christian Tetzlaff and cellist Tanja Tetzlaff (on EMI Classics). Harriet Smith praised the recording in one of Gramophone’s tributes to the winners:
“This was obviously a special disc when I first encountered it in 2011. It does for the piano trios what the Zehetmair Quartet had so triumphantly done for the Quartets Nos. 1 and 3, their recording of which won a Gramophone Award in 2003. For anyone whose notion of Schumann is still one of a downwards slope from youthful élan to tragic mental impairment, this is the gentlest of kicks in the teeth. Andsnes has already proved himself to be an artist sympathetic to Schumann’s chamber music and in the Tetzlaff siblings he has the perfect partners.”
A complete list of the pianist’s upcoming engagements follows, and additional information may be found at his web site:
Leif Ove Andsnes: upcoming engagements
Oct 4, 5, 6, & 7; Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles Philharmonic / Gustavo Dudamel
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 3
More information
Oct 24, 25, 27, & 28; Munich, Germany
Munich Philharmonic / Thomas Dausgaard
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1
Kurtág: …quasi una fantasia
More information
Nov 14-21; Mahler Chamber Orchestra tour
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 3
   Nov 14: Reggio Emilia, Italy
   Nov 15: Perugia, Italy
   Nov 18: Cologne, Germany
   Nov 19: St Pölten, Austria
   Nov 20: Birmingham, UK
   Nov 21: Brussels, Belgium
More information
Nov 28 & 29; Berlin, Germany
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Gianandrea Noseda
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3
More information
Dec 9-17; European Recital with Christian Tetzlaff
Bartók: Violin Sonata No. 2
Dvorák: Violin Sonata, Op. 57
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer”
   Dec 9: Stavanger, Norway 
   Dec 10: Hanover, Germany
   Dec 12: Brussels, Belgium
   Dec 14: Rome, Italy
   Dec 15: Florence, Italy
   Dec 17: Zurich, Switzerland
More information
Jan 17 & 18; Stavanger, Norway
Stavanger Symphony / Steven Sloane
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2
More information
Jan 24 & 27; Liverpool, UK
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Vasily Petrenko
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
More information
Feb 2; Yokohama, Japan
Recital with Akiko Suwanai (violin)
Bartók: Violin Sonata No. 2
Webern: 4 pieces, Op.7
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer”
More information
Feb 3-8; Philharmonia Orchestra, Japanese tour / Esa-Pekka Salonen
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
   Feb 3: Hyogo, Performing Arts Center
   Feb 7: Tokyo, Opera City 
   Feb 8: Tokyo, Suntory Hall   
Feb 15 & 17; Falun, Sweden
Vinterfest Chamber Music Festival
More information
Feb 20-24; Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Scandinavian tour
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 4 (directing from keyboard)
   Feb 20: Drammen, Norway
   Feb 21: Kristiansand, Norway
   Feb 23: Gothenburg, Sweden
   Feb 24: Oslo, Norway
More information
March 6; Aalesund, Norway
Recital: Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin
More information 
March 8; Stavanger, Norway
Recital: Beethoven, Bartók, Liszt, Chopin
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March 16-28; Mahler Youth Orchestra, European tour / Herbert Blomstedt
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
   March 16: Lisbon, Portugal
   March 18: Barcelona, Spain
   March 19: Paris, France
   March 21: Bratislava, Slovakia
   March 22: Vienna, Austria
   March 23: Zagreb, Croatia
   March 24: Interlaken, Switzerland
   March 26: Birmingham, UK
   March 28: Aix-en-Provence, France
More information
April 4-24; European recital tour
Beethoven: Sonata in F major
Bartók: Suite, Op.14
Liszt: Harmonies poetiques et religieuses
Chopin: Nocturne in C minor
   April 4: Bruges, Belgium
   April 5: Paris, France
   April 9: London, UK
   April 10: London, UK
   April 12: Pavia, Italy
   April 14: Munich, Germany
   April 20: Lisbon, Portugal
   April 21: Oviedo, Spain
   April 23: Madrid, Spain
   April 24: Bilbao, Spain
More information
May 9; Copenhagen, Denmark
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 4 (directing from keyboard)
More information
May 16-24; Mahler Chamber Orchestra tour
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 4
   May 16: Pavia, Italy
   May 17: Lugano, Italy
   May 19: Torino, Italy
   May 21 & 22: Prague, Czech Republic
   May 24: Bergen, Norway
More information  
June 13, 14, 15, & 18; Chicago, IL
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
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