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Described by The New York Times as “the most accomplished pianist of the new generation,” Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes returns to UNC’s Memorial Hall as part of his eight-city U.S. recital tour. The program features works by Joseph Haydn and Frédéric Chopin that Andsnes played when he first began performing almost 25 years ago as well as works that he is playing for the first time – including Béla Bartók’s Suite for Piano and the first set of Claude Debussy’s Images, which Andsnes calls “some of the greatest piano music ever written.”
His commanding technique and searching interpretations have won him worldwide praise and a 2010-11 Artist in Residence position with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He has won five Gramophone Awards and earned seven Grammy nominations, recording more than 30 discs spanning repertoire from Bach to the present day.
In the Q & A that follows, Andsnes briefly discusses his upcoming tour of the US, that in addition to Chapel Hill features performances in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, Savannah, New York and Chicago.
Q: In the coming weeks you’ll be back for a big U.S. 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 the 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 the 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 10 times more rich, complicated and diverse.
Tickets to the February 17 performance are $29-$69 and $10 for UNC-Chapel Hill students. To purchase, please call 919.843.3333 or visit www.carolinaperformingarts.org.
February 17 Program
Haydn: Sonata in C minor, Hob. XVI: 20
Andante con moto
Bartók: Suite, Op. 14
Debussy: Images, Book 1
Reflets dans l’eau (Reflections in the Water)
Hommage à Rameau (Hommage to Rameau)
Waltz No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 70
Waltz No. 1 in G-flat Major, Op. 70
Waltz No. 3 in D-flat Major, Op. 70
Ballade No. 3 Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 42
Nocturne No. 1, Op. 62
Ballade No. 1