Classical Sessions

Leif Ove Andsnes: Fatherhood And Freedom At The Piano WGBH

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Now that pianist Leif Ove Andsnes is in his 40s, he's told himself that it's time to "grow up" and immerse himself in Beethoven. This comes at the same time that he's immersing himself in the life of his daughter Sigrid, now 2.

For Andsnes, seeing the world through Beethoven's eyes is one thing, but seeing it through the eyes of a child is something else altogether.

"I notice a kind of willingness to look for the childlike beauty in things," Andsnes said. That's something new for the pianist. He says he also feels a new kind of freedom, knowing that after a concert, "if things didn't go that well, there are more important things in life ... and sometimes that brings freedom to the music-making."

For this Fraser Studio performance at WGBH, Andsnes takes a break from Beethoven, bringing a few sparkling miniatures — including the Spanish Dance No. 5 by Enrique Granados, which he used to play when he was a small boy. He also plays the three elegant waltzes, Op. 70 by Chopin. They are miniatures, too, layered with intimacy while posing as salon entertainment. These jewels must be especially attractive now for Andsnes as he endures a massive, 150-city, four-year Beethoven project.

But for Andsnes, even in the small jewels, it's the depth that pulls him in; it's about finding and exposing the drama. I was reminded of pianist Marc-André Hamelin's description of a car ride with Andsnes. It was a trip across Norway to the seaside village of Risør with Andsnes at the wheel, gleefully pulling over for surprise waterfalls and sudden, breathtaking visions of the Norwegian mountains. It may be a slightly stretched metaphor, but in the same sort of way, Andsnes lights up the drama in the little Spanish waltz without veering off and losing his direction.

When it comes to Chopin, Andsnes plays with a warm, full-blooded approach: no secret undercurrents, no random shifts in tempo or temperament. He's focused on the flow and nature of the waltz more than on the myriad indulgent things that one might do to a waltz with a piano.

While Beethoven and Leif Ove Andsnes make their way around the world, he's discovered another thing since turning 40: "I am getting more and more sure of the fact that I cannot move away from Norway."

That strong sense of home seems to deepen Andsnes in every way. You can tell in the tenderness and detail he brings to his final selection: the March, Op. 54, No. 2 from fellow Norwegian Edvard Grieg.

Set List:
  • Granados: Spanish Dance No. 5
  • Chopin: Three Waltzes, Op. 70 (audio only)
  • Grieg: March, Op. 54, No. 2 (audio only)
Credits:

Video production by Greg Shea, WGBH

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