Earlier this month, Leif Ove Andsnes was presented with the Classical Brit 2007 award for "Instrumentalist of the Year" for his album "Horizons". This is the second year that Leif Ove has taken home this award.
Following his highly successful recording of two Rachmaninov piano concertos with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Antonio Pappano, Leif Ove Andsnes turned to music on a much more intimate scale with 2006’s Horizons. The album features nearly two dozen short piano works that Andsnes has performed – often as encores – throughout his life: works he played as a youth (such as Ibert’s Le petit âne blanc, Sibelius’s Etude, the first Chopin Impromptu and a Liszt Liebestraum); tributes to teachers (Smetana's At the Sea) and great interpreters (Lipatti, Michelangeli, Gieseking and Eileen Joyce); and other pieces he discovered at important times throughout his career (works by Antheil, Shostakovich and, of course, his countryman Grieg).
Born on the wind-swept island of Karmøy in West Norway to music teaching parents, Leif Ove Andsnes grew up in a household where music making was a normal part of life. Aged 15 he moved to the mainland to study with the Czech émigré Jiri Hlinka at the Bergen Conservatoire. Hlinka’s fiery central European temperament was an eye-opener to the young Norwegian and his influence both musically and personally helped to launched Andsnes into the limelight. He made his first major recital debut aged 17 and the following year performed the Grieg Piano Concerto on the annual last night gala concert of the Bergen Festival. The Oslo Philharmonic was quick to invite him to perform with them at the Edinburgh International Festival and, aged 19, he made his recital debut in New York. Back in Scandinavia he played his first concerts with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra which led Neeme Järvi to invite him to perform with him in Cleveland where he is a regular guest artist to this day. Franz Welser-Möst, the Cleveland Orchestra’s current Music Director, says of him “He is one of the greatest.”
Leif Ove Andsnes’ musical inquisitiveness leads him to a continual exploration of different combinations of music. For his prestigious 2004/2005 “Perspective” series at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Andsnes was joined by some of his closest musical associates for a range of seven concerts which saw him in solo recital, duo, lieder, chamber music and concerto. He is the youngest – and only Scandinavian - artist to have ever been awarded the series and Vanity Fair honoured him accordingly with the title of “Best Fingers of 2004“. Also in 2004/5, Andsnes directed the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra from the keyboard in performances of Mozart and Haydn throughout Germany and Asia. He performed Rachmaninov piano concerto no.2 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic, with whom he recorded both the 1st and 2nd piano concertos for EMI Classics.
In 1998 Leif Ove Andsnes was the recipient of the Gilmore Artist Award and the resulting prize money enabled him to cast his eyes yet further afield and sample more music by living composers. As part of the Perspectives series he premiered Bent Sørensen’s “The Shadows of Silence” and in August 2005 he gave the world premiere performance of Marc André Dalbavie’s piano concerto at the London Proms. A co-commission with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chicago Symphony, Andsnes gave the US premiere of the concerto in Cleveland in January 2006 and went on to perform the work in Chicago in February. He will record both works together with Lutoslawski’s piano concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst for EMI Classics in 2007.
Highlights of the 2005 / 06 season have included a major recital tour throughout Europe and the States of which one French journalist wrote of the Paris concert: “It is undisputable - Leif Ove Andnses can no longer be categorised as one of the better pianists of his generation, but, more simply as one of the most important pianists of the era." Upcoming engagements in the 2006 / 07 season include performances in both Cleveland and New York with the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst, an Autumn European tour with the London Symphony Orchestra and John Eliot Gardiner as well as a Spring tour with the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Antonio Pappano.
A further passion of Leif Ove Andsnes is concentrated in the small and sunny fishing village of Risør, in South East Norway. As co-director of the annual Risør Chamber Music Festival Andsnes entices musicians to gather around mid-summer for one week. Guest artists (which have to date included Emanuel Ax, Ian Bostridge, Maxim Vengerov and Gidon Kremer) are lured not only by the music, sea and sun but also by the presence of one of Norway’s top chefs who provides fantastic meals for all the participating musicians. Food is yet another passion of Andsnes. Musicians he claims are more fanatical than others about food as they are obliged to eat out so often on tour. Whether this claim be true or false, his passion for food has certainly led to culinary history in Risør. And even those who can’t testify to the food have reported on the delights of the festival. The Daily Telegraph wrote "What Risør has done is to effect an ideal synthesis of Norwegian and foreign talent, a fascinating and fruitful combination which gives the Festival its particular personality, places it on the international map, yet maintains the degree of intimacy which is absolutely perfect for chamber music.“ The New York Times placed Risør amongst the top 10 festivals in the world.
As an exclusive artist on EMI, Andsnes has won three Gramophone Awards and his recording of Rachmaninov Piano Concertos nos. 1 & 2 won him a 2006 Classical Brit Award. His discography mirrors his performing career and includes a wide variety of repertoire ranging from solo sonatas by Haydn, Chopin, Schubert and Schumann to piano concertos by Grieg, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Schumann, Shostakovich. Bartok and Britten: He has recorded Schubert lieder with Ian Bostridge, Bartok Sonatas with Christian Tetzlaff as well as Haydn and Mozart piano concertos with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra conducted from the keyboard. His best seller recording of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, played on the composer’s own piano in Troldhaugen, not only won him the Best Instrumental Recording at the 2002 Gramophone Awards but was also the subject of a “South Bank Show“ tv documentary.
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