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Leif Ove Andsnes Embarks on Final Leg of Epic “Beethoven Journey,”

The coming season sees Gramophone Hall of Fame inductee Leif Ove Andsnes embark on the final leg of “The Beethoven Journey,” his monumental four-year focus on the master composer’s works for piano and orchestra. With the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) – his fellow traveler since the project’s inception – the Norwegian pianist releases the third and final installment of his celebrated Beethoven Journey recording series on Sony Classical (Sep 16), and leads complete Beethoven concerto cycles from the keyboard in high-profile residencies at New York’s Carnegie Hall (Feb 23 & 25) and in Paris, London, Lucerne, Hamburg, Bonn, Shanghai, and Tokyo, besides performing Beethoven concertos in Boston’s Celebrity Series (Feb 22) and a host of key venues across Europe and Asia. He and the MCO also offer hearing-impaired children the chance to “Feel the Music” through innovative and ambitious educational workshops in the classroom and on the concert stage. Andsnes undertakes further Beethoven collaborations with such world-class ensembles as the London Philharmonic and Osmo Vänskä (Dec 18–19), the Munich Philharmonic and Thomas Dausgaard (Nov 1–3), the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel (Oct 9–12), and the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, with whom he launches the new season on September 10–13.

“The Beethoven Journey” enters fourth and final season

Since its launch in the 2011-12 season, “The Beethoven Journey” has taken Andsnes to 55 cities in 22 countries for more than 150 performances. As he explains,

“To have the luxury to dive into one composer’s music in this way is truly wonderful, and after performing Beethoven so much, I do feel I have some freedom and comfort with his music. I’ve learned that with him there are never any false feelings, nothing superficial. There is such sincerity, such a human journey: there are always struggles, challenges, and searching for answers, and especially in the later works, a spiritual triumph.”

It is the pianist’s partnership with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra that anchors “The Beethoven Journey,” and their outstanding musical rapport has drawn especial praise. The UK’s Guardian comments: “You’d be hard put to find a pianist and orchestra better matched,” while Gramophone magazine observes: “There’s so much more to this partnership than just exceptional playing; there’s a palpable sense of discovery, of living the music.

The Beethoven Journey on CD: release of final volume on Sep 16

For Andsnes and the MCO, September 16 brings the release of the third and final recording of their Beethoven Journey series for Sony Classical. Completing the cycle with accounts of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto (“Emperor”) and “Choral Fantasy,” both recorded live in concert at the Prague Spring Festival, this disc once again features the pianist playing and directing the orchestra from the keyboard. The full Beethoven Journey series will be issued as a boxed set on October 28.

The series has already proved a resounding success. Andsnes’s first Beethoven Journey album, on which he and the MCO play the composer’s First and Third Piano Concertos, was named iTunes’ Best Instrumental Album of 2012, awarded Belgium’s Prix Caecilia, and hailed by BBC Music magazine as “an all-round winner of a disc, with superlative playing from both soloist and orchestra, and a recorded sound to match.” Similarly, on the second volume, on which they present the Second and Fourth Piano Concertos, Andsnes impressed the New York Times with his “elegant, vibrant performances,” while the UK’s Telegraph, in a five-star review, concluded: “This leg of Andsnes’s interpretative journey is a landmark of artistic integrity, intelligence, and musical insight.”

“Beethoven Journey” residencies with MCO in NYC and around the world

With the completion of their recording project, Andsnes and the MCO embark on a formidable program of international residencies and engagements, crowned by the pianist’s return to Carnegie Hall. There he looks forward to leading the orchestra from the keyboard in a complete Beethoven cycle, offering accounts of the Second, Third, and Fourth concertos (Feb 23) and of the First and “Emperor” concertos (Feb 25) in a pair of intensive programs that bookend a screening of In Search of Chopin, a new documentary featuring the Norwegian pianist (Feb 24). While in the U.S., Andsnes and the orchestra also perform Beethoven’s Second, Third, and Fourth concertos at the New England Conservatory in Boston’s Celebrity Series (Feb 22).

Additional “Beethoven Journey” residencies take the pianist and orchestra to the world’s great musical capitals. They kick off with complete concerto cycles in Hamburg (Sep 24 & 30) and at the international Beethovenfest in Bonn (Sep 25–28), followed by appearances in Lucerne (Nov 24 & 26), at Vienna’s Musikverein (Nov 29, Dec 1 & 2), and in Brussels (Dec 4). In February they reunite for a residency at the Théatre des Champs-Élysées in Paris (Feb 17 & 19), before embarking on a major Asian tour, with full residencies in Shanghai (May 8 & 10) and Tokyo (May 15 & 17), plus performances in Hong Kong (May 3), Taiwan’s Taipei (May 5) and Tainan (May 6), South Korea’s Gyeonggi-do (May 12), and Shizuoka City in Japan (May 14).  The grand finale of the project takes place in London, where Andsnes intersperses a three-concert, full-cycle residency with works for chamber orchestra by Schoenberg and Stravinsky (July 23–26). Details of other residencies will be announced during the season. 

“Feel the Music” with the MCO at Carnegie Hall and in Europe

Rounding out Andsnes’s artistic partnership with the MCO is “Feel the Music,” an integral component of their “Beethoven Journey,” which was recently recognized with the 2013 European Education YEAH!Award. Inspired by the composer’s own hearing loss, the project enables hearing-impaired children around the world to explore ways of experiencing music through their other senses, in three-day workshops presented by the pianist and orchestra in collaboration with experienced music educators. Innovative concert-hall sessions, at which children sit on stage and feel the oscillating vibrations while Andsnes and the orchestra play Beethoven concerto selections, are flanked by workshops in schools, where children are introduced to the orchestral instruments and encouraged to paint their experiences. Over the coming season, the pianist and orchestra look forward to presenting “Feel the Music” during their February residency at Carnegie Hall, as well as in Bonn and Lucerne.

With the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and more

Since the outset of his “Beethoven Journey,” Andsnes has not only performed Beethoven with the MCO, but as guest soloist with many of the world’s foremost orchestras. After launching his 2014-15 season with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, with whom he gives four performances of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto (Sep 10–13), the pianist returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Disney Hall, where he and Gustavo Dudamel bring their three-season Beethoven cycle to a climactic conclusion with renditions of the “Emperor” Concerto and “Choral Fantasy” (Oct 9–12). On hearing Andsnes play Beethoven’s First with the same forces, the Los Angeles Times noted: “His playing is exuberant. … He listens to the players and enters into dialogue with them. … There were marvelous intimate moments.” When they reunited for the Second and Fourth last season, the same journal found that “the two Beethoven concertos were in masterful hands.”

Beyond the States, the pianist looks forward to Beethoven engagements with Osmo Vänskä and the London Philharmonic in Reykjavik (Dec 18 & 19); with Thomas Dausgaard, conducting both the Munich Philharmonic (Nov 1–3) and Swedish Chamber Orchestra (April 16 & 18); with Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra in Abu Dhabi (March 26); and with the North Norwegian Symphony (Nov 14–17) and Trondheim Symphony (Feb 5 & 6).

A complete list of Andsnes’s upcoming engagements follows, and more information may be found at his web site: www.andsnes.com