US concerts for Andsnes in April

April sees Norway’s foremost pianist, Leif Ove Andsnes, returning to the US for performances in NYC, LA, Washington, San Francisco and Seattle.

Leif Ove Andsnes 2006 (photo: Simon Fowler)

The celebrated Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes returns to the U.S. this month for a six-city solo recital tour and a benefit recital for Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS. Andsnes is currently on an extensive tour of Europe that will take him to 16 cities across the continent, after which he will head to America for performances in Atlanta (April 19), Birmingham, AL (April 20), Strathmore, MD (April 22), New York’s Carnegie Hall (April 24), San Francisco (April 27), and Seattle (April 28).

Andsnes’s program for the tour includes music by five composers, beginning with Bach, Beethoven, and Sibelius (details below). The first half of the recital will conclude with Grieg’s powerful Ballade in G Minor, Op. 24, a work that Andsnes has recorded to great acclaim for EMI Classics. This deeply personal work is also the basis for a remarkable documentary. Hosted by Andsnes, Ballad for Edvard Grieg was a television program that aired on Norwegian TV this fall, during the Grieg centenary celebrations, and is now available on DVD. For Andsnes, the Ballade in G minor captures the dual nature of Grieg and his tumultuous emotional life perhaps better than any other work penned by the composer, and he says that following Grieg’s footsteps for the documentary has greatly influenced his approach to performing the Ballade. Andsnes describes the work at length below.

The second half of Leif Ove Andsnes’s spring recital program is dedicated to the music of Claude Debussy. Andsnes has selected eleven of the composer’s evocative and endlessly appealing Preludes, five chosen from Book 1 and six from Book 2. Andsnes’s selection of Debussy’s music for these recitals points towards his more intensive exploration of French repertoire in future seasons.

Soon after his recital tour, Andsnes returns to Brahms’s magisterial Piano Concerto No. 2, which he will perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen (May 1, 2, and 4) and the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas (May 8, 9, 10, 11).

Andsnes performed Brahms’s epic second concerto in public for the first time in August, with the Norwegian Youth Symphony Orchestra, which prepared him for a series of performances in Europe and the United States throughout the season. He played the work for the first time in the U.S. in October with the Philadelphia Orchestra, under the direction of Osmo Vänskä. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “Andsnes was the author of clean, brightly articulated playing that, in the last movement, expressed so much technical confidence it came across as deliciously brash.” In January, Andsnes joined Riccardo Muti and the New York Philharmonic for performances of the work that were described by the New York Times as “vibrant” and “brilliant.”

Current recording projects

In February, EMI Classics released two recordings by Leif Ove Andsnes. The first is another collaboration with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, with whom he has toured and recorded to great acclaim. The new recording features Andsnes and the NCO performing a vividly contrasting pair of Mozart works: the ebullient Piano Concerto No. 17 and the stormily dramatic Piano Concerto No. 20. Gramophone’s April issue included an enthusiastic recommendation of the album:

The mark of a great pianist: always allowing Mozart his own voice… [Andsnes’s] enviably natural, unforced clarity and musicianship shine through every bar and subtle ambiguity. Very much primus inter pares, Andsnes’s sense of give and take as both soloist and director…is as remarkable as his unfailing musical grace. For all his recognizable individuality, he so clearly comes from a line of musicians (I am thinking of Lipatti, Solomon, and Clara Haskil) who by appearing to do so little end by achieving virtually everything.… A memorable addition to this princely young pianist’s discography.

Andsnes’s previous Mozart recording with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, featuring the composer’s Piano Concertos Nos. 9 and 18, was named one of the “Best CDs of 2004” by the New York Times, and their first album for EMI Classics, featuring Haydn Piano Concertos, won a Gramophone Award.

A second release in February was a two-disc set featuring Schubert’s three late great Piano Sonatas, D. 958, D. 959, and D. 960 as well as the Sonata in D Major, D. 850. Andsnes recorded the sonatas as part of his enthusiastically received series of Schubert recordings with English tenor Ian Bostridge, which featured pairings of major solo piano works alongside select songs. Classics Today gave the initial release, which included Schubert’s epic B-flat Sonata, D. 960, its top rating and called it “One of the most perceptive, sensitively phrased, and technically cultivated interpretations of the sublime B-flat ‘Opus Posthumous’ sonata on disc.” The album was also a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice”; the magazine called the sonata performance “superb,” and noted, “Andsnes grows in stature as a performer with every disc.”

Program for Andsnes’ US performances:

Bach: Toccata in E minor, BMW 914

Beethoven: Piano Sonata in E flat Major, Op. 27 No. 1 'Quasi una fantasia'

Sibelius: Final piece from 'Kyllikki, 3 Lyric Pieces, Op. 41'

Sibelius: Elegiaco, Op. 76, No. 10

Sibelius: The Birch, Op. 75, No. 4

Sibelius: Barcarola, Op. 24, No. 10

Grieg: Ballade in G minor, Op. 24

Debussy: Preludes, Selection from Books I & II

With the Los Angeles Philharmonic:

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb major Op. 83

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