Brahms’s Genre Premieres
At the age of 91, the Kapelle’s Conductor Laureate, Herbert Blomstedt, is returning to Dresden this season to present an all-Brahms concert. The programme features the Hanseatic composer’s first essays in two major forms, which Blomstedt conducted for the first time in 1975 and 1976 as principal conductor of the Staatskapelle. Originally conceived as a sonata for two pianos, the concerto, which Brahms himself interpreted as a soloist, will be performed by the celebrated Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes.
Expected concert duration including an interval: 115 minutes
A concert introduction is given 45 minutes before the start of the performance in the opera cellar.
The close relationship between Herbert Blomstedt and the Staatskapelle Dresden stretches back more than 40 years. Following his debut with the orchestra in April 1969, he held the post of Principal Conductor from 1975 to 1985, a decade that is not only unforgettable musically, but which was also marked by difficult political conditions. In purely human terms, this was certainly a special chapter in the ensemble’s long history. Alongside the »local heroes« Wagner and Strauss, Herbert Blomstedt performed a wide repertoire during his time in Dresden, stretching from the Kapelle’s Baroque heritage to numerous world and German premieres. He recorded a vast number of works with the orchestra, and in 1985 conducted the first Staatskapelle concert in the newly rebuilt Semperoper. To the present day he has given more than 300 concerts with the Kapelle, including no fewer than ten appearances at the traditional Palm Sunday Concert, and has conducted a number of opera productions, formerly in the Dresden State Theatre. In 2007 the Staatskapelle awarded him its Golden Badge of Honour. In May 2016 he was named the orchestra’s Conductor Laureate, making him the second conductor after Sir Colin Davis to hold this post.
Born in the USA to Swedish parents, Herbert Blomstedt gave his conducting debut in 1954 with the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. Later he conducted the Oslo Philharmonic as well as the Danish and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras in Copenhagen and Stockholm respectively. He has been Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, Principal Conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg and the 18th Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.
He is the Conductor Laureate of the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Leipzig, Copenhagen and Stockholm, the Bamberg Symphony and the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. As a guest conductor, Herbert Blomstedt works with the world’s top orchestras. In 2011 he enjoyed a late debut with the Vienna Philharmonic, paving the way for a series of collaborations with that ensemble. He is an elected member of the Royal Swedish Music Academy, holds a number of honorary doctorates and in 2003 was awarded the Order of Merit (Großes Verdienstkreuz) of the Federal Republic of Germany. In April 2016 he received the prestigious Danish Léonie Sonning Music Prize for his artistic lifework.
The New York Times has called Leif Ove Andsnes »a pianist of magisterial elegance, power, and insight,« and the Wall Street Journal named him »one of the most gifted musicians of his generation.« With his commanding technique and searching interpretations, the celebrated Norwegian pianist has won acclaim worldwide, giving recitals and playing concertos in the world’s leading concert halls and with its foremost orchestras, besides being an active recording artist. An avid chamber musician, he is the founding director of the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, was co-artistic director of the Risør Festival of Chamber Music for nearly two decades, and served as music director of California’s Ojai Music Festival in 2012. He was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in July 2013, and received honorary doctorates from New York’s Juilliard School and Norway’s University of Bergen in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
A frequent collaborator with the New York Philharmonic, Andsnes is the orchestra’s 2017-18 Artist-in-Residence. In addition to chamber music and a solo recital of Schubert, Nielsen, Sibelius, and Jörg Widmann at David Geffen Hall, this season-long tenure sees him join the Philharmonic for Britten’s Piano Concerto under Antonio Pappano, Rachmaninoff’s rarely programmed Fourth Concerto under Paavo Järvi, and Debussy’s Fantaisie with Edward Gardner. All three concertos figure prominently in his programming this season: he also plays the Britten with orchestras including the Tonhalle Zurich, Vienna Symphony, and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; the Rachmaninoff with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Bergen Philharmonic; and the Debussy with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Oslo Philharmonic, and New World Symphony. In recital, he embarks on an extensive European tour to such key cities as London, Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, Madrid, Milan, and Amsterdam with a program featuring, among other works, a selection of pieces by Sibelius. The Finnish composer’s unjustly neglected oeuvre for solo piano is also the focus of Andsnes’s upcoming Sony Classical album release, which includes Sibelius’s own arrangement of his famous Valse triste, excerpts from the popular Ten Pieces and early Six Impromptus, and the expressive Kyllikki (Three Lyric Pieces). Besides joining baritone Matthias Goerne for an account of Schubert’s Winterreise at the new Boulez Saal in Berlin, the pianist also looks forward to summer 2018 chamber collaborations at Italy’s Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival and the third season of his own Rosendal Chamber Music Festival in Norway.
Last season, Andsnes played Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Piano Concerto with orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic and Boston Symphony, Mozart with the Vienna Philharmonic and on tour with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, and Schumann with Japan’s NHK Symphony, where – for the second time in the prize’s 20-year history – he was subsequently named »Most Memorable Soloist of 2016.« In recital, he embarked on his first solo tour of South America, performing Sibelius, Beethoven, Debussy, and Chopin in Brazil and Chile, before reprising a similar program for dates in Japan and South Korea; reunited with Matthias Goerne for complete trios of Schubert song cycles in Paris and Brussels; and joined fellow pianist Marc-André Hamelin for a substantial U.S. and European tour of music for two pianos that the Washington Post called »a meeting of two champions at the top of their game.« A centerpiece of their program was Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, which is among the works they recorded for release next season on the Hyperion label. Meanwhile, to conclude 2016-17, Andsnes presented the second annual Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, which featured appearances by Anne Sofie von Otter, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Christian Tetzlaff, Tabea Zimmermann, Martin Fröst, and a host of other world-class guest artists in a celebration of Mozart’s chamber music.
Perhaps the Norwegian pianist’s most ambitious achievement to date is »The Beethoven Journey,« his epic four-season
focus on the master composer’s music for piano and orchestra, which took him to 108 cities in 27 countries for more than 230 live performances. He led the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) from the keyboard in complete Beethoven concerto cycles at high-profile residencies in Bonn, Hamburg, Lucerne, Vienna, Paris, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Bodø, and London, besides taking on further Beethoven collaborations with such leading international ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, London Philharmonic, and Munich Philharmonic. The project was chronicled in Concerto – A Beethoven Journey (2016), a documentary by award-winning British filmmaker Phil Grabsky, and Andsnes’s partnership with the MCO was captured on the hit Sony Classical three-volume series The Beethoven Journey. The first volume was named iTunes’ Best Instrumental Album of 2012 and awarded Belgium’s Prix Caecilia, the second recognized with BBC Music’s coveted »2015 Recording of the Year Award,« and the third hailed in a five-star review as »performances of arresting maturity, stylistic acumen and utter delight« (Telegraph, UK). Issued together as a boxed set, the series was chosen as one of the »Best of 2014« by the New York Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Andsnes now records exclusively for Sony Classical. His previous discography comprises more than 30 discs for EMI Classics – solo, chamber, and concerto releases, many of them bestsellers – spanning repertoire from the time of Bach to the present day. He has been nominated for eight Grammys and awarded many international prizes, including six Gramophone Awards. His recordings of the music of his compatriot Edvard Grieg have been especially celebrated: the New York Times named Andsnes’s 2004 recording of Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Mariss Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic a »Best CD of the Year,« the Penguin Guide awarded it a coveted »Rosette«, and both that album and his disc of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces won Gramophone Awards. His recording of Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 9 and 18 was another New York Times »Best of the Year« and Penguin Guide »Rosette« honoree. He won yet another Gramophone Award for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 with Antonio Pappano and the Berlin Philharmonic. A series of recordings of Schubert’s late sonatas, paired with lieder sung by Ian Bostridge, inspired lavish praise, as did the pianist’s world-premiere recordings of Marc-André Dalbavie’s Piano Concerto and Bent Sørensen’s The Shadows of Silence, both of which were written for him.
Andsnes has received Norway’s distinguished honor, Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, and in 2007, he received the prestigious Peer Gynt Prize, awarded by members of parliament to honor prominent Norwegians for their achievements in politics, sports, and culture. In 2004-05, he became the youngest musician (and first Scandinavian) to curate Carnegie Hall’s »Perspectives« series, and in 2015-16 he was the subject of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Artist Portrait Series. He is the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist Award and the Gilmore Artist Award, and, saluting his many achievements, Vanity Fair named Andsnes one of the »Best of the Best« in 2005.
Leif Ove Andsnes was born in Karmøy, Norway in 1970, and studied at the Bergen Music Conservatory under the renowned Czech professor Jirí Hlinka. He has also received invaluable advice from the Belgian piano teacher Jacques de Tiège who, like Hlinka, has greatly influenced his style and philosophy of playing. He is currently an Artistic Adviser for the Prof. Jirí Hlinka Piano Academy in Bergen where he gives an annual masterclass to participating students. Andsnes lives in Bergen and in June 2010 achieved one of his proudest accomplishments to date, becoming a father for the first time. His family expanded in May 2013 with the welcome arrival of twins.