Leif Ove Andsnes first came to Ann Arbor in January 1997, collaborating with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Back in town tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Hill Auditorium, he is excited to arrive with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra to bring what he calls “the greatest treasure” – that is, the sounds of Mozart’s piano concertos.

Fine Arts Reviews
Leif Ove Andsnes will perform Saturday at 8 p.m. at Hill Auditorium. (Courtesy of UMS)

Andsnes, age 35, is a piano virtuoso who works both as a soloist and with ensembles around the world. Besides the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, this season brings Andsnes in contact with the Philharmonic orchestras of Tokyo, Berlin and Los Angeles, Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Vienna’s Musikverein.

Since his inaugural University Music Society appearance in ’97, he has worked primarily with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. He favors the NCO because it is a project orchestra.

“This is not – full-time,” Andsnes said. “Some members are freelance musicians or have other jobs. We get together eight times a year, so this is a highlight for all the players.”

Andsnes will direct and play in the opening and ending pieces of the program. The first, his personal favorite, is Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat Major, K. 449. Despite the piece’s short phrases, Andsnes said there are “still so many things happening.” He also said that the last work of the program, Mozart’s piano concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466, was Beethoven’s favorite.

“It is the most dramatic concerto by Mozart,” he said. “Absolutely wonderful. Restlessness and fright and innocent and beautiful.”

The program also includes Mozart’s Serenade in G Major, “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” and Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 135, arranged by Terje Tonnesen.

Andsnes has been recognized with many prestigious awards, including three Gramophone Awards. Recently, Vanity Fair magazine included Andsnes as one of its “Best of the Best” in January 2005.

Andsnes revels in the opportunity to conduct and play simultaneously, both for personal enjoyment and a sense of historical nostalgia. “(It’s) so fun playing and leading at the same time,” he said. “The communication is so direct. This is the way Mozart did – he conducted from the piano; there was no conductor back then.”

With Mozart’s music to ignite their performance, Andsnes and the spirited Norwegian Chamber Orchestra should erupt powerfully tomorrow at Hill. “I hope the audience will experience what I experience playing with them (the NCO),” he said. “There is so much energy and vitality – We smile when we’re done.”


Leif Ove Andsnes and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra

Saturday at 8 p.m.

Tickets $10-$65

At Hill Auditorium

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