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Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes has been called "a pianist of magisterial elegance, power and insight," which he proved in his Carnegie Hall recital, Feb. 15, 2012. (Melanie Burford for NPR)

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes At Carnegie Hall

by Brian Wise
Feb 14, 2012 (WQXR-APM)

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Brian Wise

Leif Ove Andsnes is now on the north side of age 40, and 25 years into a busy concert career. But he's not setting out to buy a Porsche or stage a midlife crisis yet.

The Norwegian pianist, known for his thoughtful musicianship and unassuming manner, projects an image of personal balance and earnest curiosity. "The more one gets into the music the more one realizes there is more and more to learn," he said in an interview with WQXR's Jeff Spurgeon. "Everyday I'm trying to find out what makes music great."

That sensibility is on display tonight, as Andsnes' U.S. tour includes a stop at Carnegie Hall, webcast live on this page and broadcast live on WQXR and American Public Media. His program spans several pillars of the piano literature — Haydn's darkly turbulent C-Minor Sonata, several Chopin waltzes, ballades and nocturnes, Debussy's Images, Book I and Bartók's folk-based Suite, Op. 14.

While some pianists give more than 100 concerts each year and flirt with burnout and stress injuries, Andsnes limits his touring to about 60 performances. These include work as a solo recitalist, accompanist and chamber-music player. He is frequently called upon for his programming ideas, and in June he'll serve as music director at the Ojai Festival near Los Angeles, a rotating post that has a history of adventurous thinkers.

Another factor in Andsnes's schedule these days is fatherhood: he and his partner, Ragnhild Lothe, a horn player in the Bergen Philharmonic, had their first child together, a daughter named Sigrid. Still, more big plans are in the works. This year, Andsnes begins a Beethoven piano concerto cycle with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, his first recording for Sony Classical. He left his longtime home at EMI last year after some 40 albums and eight Grammy nominations.

When asked about his own favorite pianists, Andnses rattles off a list of list of legends: Artur Schnabel, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Sviatoslav Richter, Dinu Lipatti, Leon Fleisher and Vladimir Horowitz.

The latter choice may raise eyebrows among pianophiles who view Horowitz as an extroverted stage animal known for his flamboyant technique. "I also enjoy listening to Horowitz recordings even if it's a personality very far from how I feel about music," said Andsnes. "But he could orchestrate the piano. You can learn from so many people and I often find it's strange with young pianists how they don't listen to recordings of the past. Please listen to them before you play them yourself. I personally feel part of this great tradition."

Program

  • HAYDN Sonata in C Minor, Hob. XVI:20
  • BARTÓK Suite, Op. 14
  • DEBUSSY Images, Book I
  • CHOPIN Waltz in F Minor, Op. 70, No. 2
  • CHOPIN Waltz in G-flat Major, Op. 70, No. 1
  • CHOPIN Waltz in D-flat Major, Op. 70, No. 3
  • CHOPIN Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 42
  • CHOPIN Ballade in A-flat Major, Op. 47
  • CHOPIN Nocturne in B Major, Op. 62, No. 1
  • CHOPIN Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23
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