Leif Ove Andsnes: From Norway to New York

Classic Arts Features   Leif Ove Andsnes: From Norway to New York
A chat with Leif Ove Andsnes, who brings world-renowned musicians from Norway's summer Risêªr festival to Carnegie Hall this December.


For one week every June, the charming Norwegian village of Risêªr provides an idyllic backdrop for one of the most celebrated chamber music festivals. This December, world-renowned musicians from the 2010 festival, led by pianist and Artistic Director Leif Ove Andsnes, bring the magic of Risêªr to our shores. Jeremy Geffen, Carnegie Hall's Director of Artistic Planning, spoke with Andsnes about Risêªr's musical journey across the Atlantic.

When home in Risêªr, what is the festival like?

Andsnes: Risêªr is such an intimate place. It's a small village with white wooden houses by the harbor. It's amazingly beautiful and quiet. The atmosphere is very calm: perfect for listening to music. We meet people from the audience everywhere as we walk between rehearsals and concerts, and in that way it's very much a community. That's a wonderful feeling, and that's the reason the chamber music festival [is held] in this town, because of the intimacy of it all. That will be quite different in New York, but there are other great advantages about this wonderful city.

How do you go about taking something that is so site-specific : a chamber music festival in a Norwegian fishing village : and relocate it to New York City?

Andsnes: Of course, it's impossible to recreate the same atmosphere that we have in Risêªr when we go abroad. But I think what we can offer are mixed programs with so many different artists and groups. I think it's important for us as a festival, and it's important for the musicians.

Is there added merit to the fact that this festival is produced by musicians for musicians?

Andsnes: This festival is very much a product of musicians' needs to get behind and create something for themselves. What has been interesting in Scandinavia is the growth of this kind of festival. The Risêªr Festival started in 1991, and then it was one of three comparable festivals in Norway. Today, we have 20 or 25 summer festivals like this, and they were all started by musicians.

You have a variety of artists: and a varied combination of artists: who perform at Risêªr each year. That must make programming each performance both fun and challenging.

Andsnes: In Risêªr, the week [of the festival] is kind of feverish because we have about 20 concerts in six days. But that allows us the possibility to make interesting programs, in the sense that we can have very different groups playing in each. We can have a solo piano piece, a piece for chamber orchestra, a contemporary piece for ensemble, and finish up with some songs in one concert. And we can do lots of crazy, fun things.

December 1 _4, 2010
Risêªr Chamber Music Festival


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