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Mixed Company is written by Saint Paul Sunday staff, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the show and the classical music they love. We welcome your online comments.

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September 28, 2006

Time/Space Pianism

Leif Ove Andsnes doesn't so much interpret the works he performs as inhabit them. Maybe the distinction rings more semantic than real (a temptation for anyone who tries to write about music and musicians), but to me it goes to the heart of what's so special and perhaps paradoxical about his artistry.

With Leif Ove, it's all about the music. The person is unassuming and kind, even humble, and the pianist doesn't get in the way of the masterpieces at hand. Yet he's very much there—hyper-present, in fact, to Schumann's or Beethoven's or Grieg's intentions and idiosyncrasies without for a moment letting them suspend the possibilities he hears and draws to the surface of our hearing. (Monster technique doesn't hurt.)

An oft-repeated criterion for greatness in music is the capacity to invite and sustain ever new readings with no loss of the beloved original essence. Even so, how can a pianist at once channel and self-express as holistically as Leif Ove Andsnes does? It's as though he takes us from two dimensions to three, or from three dimensions to who knows how many more.

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at September 28, 2006 12:49 PM



Hi Bill: Just loved the show with leif Ove Andsnes and would like to hear and see him, if he is coming to Philadelphia anytime. What is the information about the summer concerts in Norway? Information will be greatly appreciated. Hope to hear more of these most exceptional concerts. Bernice

By balexander at October 1, 2006 2:19 PM


Leif Ove Andsnes is spectacular-a phenomenon! He can interpret the most diverse and complex music with such finess and such spirit! He's the only pianist I've ever seen (I was fortunate to see him at a Schbert Club concert last winter-nose bleed seat, but one of the best evenings in my life!) and heard who embodies all compositions he plays-and such a diverse repitoire! This program was certainly no exception! I especially enjoyed the Schubert and Beethoven, but really was wrapt by it all. His knowledge of the history of the pieces and concern for the composers themselves is unparalleled! I'm sorry I neglected to comment on the Emerson String Quartet's intensely sad but good Shostakovich and the great Shape Note singing by the Anonymous 4, but those, too were delightful programs-bravo! And thanks for the great guests and music you bring!!

By Vinca K Renner at October 2, 2006 1:45 PM


Lovely program. It serves as a reminder that solo instrument performances (of which I include solo vocal performances) are the most intimate form of music in the classical realm. I actually get the feeling that I'm closest to the core and soul of the composer when hearing these sonatas. The piano has the added advantage of generating and delivering greater complexity than, say, the violin or cello, so these works are both intensley intimate and more demanding of the listener than string sonatas.

One criticism: it's a tired cliche and, more important, highly inaccurate--to refer works of Schumann, and to read into them, elements of his bipolar disorder. Almost all composers have elements of great passion, discord, and dissonance in their works. (What would you have us make of Schoenberg's or Morton Feldman's mental states from their works?) Constantly referring to Schumann's "madness" by pointing out passionate elements in his pieces is very close to committing the pathetic falacy.

Second, Leif went further in referring to "schizophrenic" elements in Schumann's works. Schizophrenia is an extremely complex and terrible brain disease. There's simply no duality involved in it as Leif suggested. It's best to keep inaccurate metaphors based on a poor understanding of medical conditions out of the discussion of music. Leave them to brain science.

Nice, also, to hear some new programming--finally.

John Niesyn
Fairfield, CT

By John Niesyn at October 2, 2006 1:46 PM


Vinca and John,
We've missed your comments in recent months as our SPAM filters were being upgraded. Nice to have you both back...both of your comments deserve longer responses from me and I'll post them when I can.

By Vaughn Ormseth at October 2, 2006 1:47 PM


I very much enjoyed Leif Ove Andsness's program. I played Beethoven's Op. 110 for my Juilliard entrance exam almost 50 years ago. Perhaps Mr. Andsness might consider this: About 46 bars before the end, at the Meno allegro, one can make a very smooth transition by playing those 16th notes at the same speed as the preceding 8th notes. Then the following accelerando is very exciting. I find that smooth transition very satisfyong.

By James MacInnes at October 3, 2006 12:15 PM


The chamber music festival in Norway that Andsnes talks about is Ris?amber Music Festival. Located in a very picturesque, small town by the sea with lots of white whoodden houses. Here's the web site: http://www.kammermusikkfest.no

By Ola Nordmann at October 19, 2006 5:47 AM