The Classical Station’s interview with Leif Ove Andsnes for Preview!

Interview with Leif Ove Andsnes
by Bethany Tillerson (photo credits: © Gregor Hohenberg)

This Sunday, The Classical Station will feature a special interview with Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. Known for his unique interpretations and sheer technical skill, Andsnes has won multiple GRAMMY awards since 2009. His most recent recording, Dvořák: Poetic Tone Poems, explores the so-called “forgotten” piano works by Antonín Dvořák.

CALEB: To begin speaking about your new, beautiful Dvořák recording, why do you think that these works have been neglected? 

ANDSNES: Dvořák was not a pianist, and many people seem to think that his pieces are not well written for the piano. I would say that with these pieces, at least, it’s a misunderstanding. There are awkward moments where you feel that it’s not written by Schumann or Chopin, where everything comes so naturally under your hands. But if you take away those few awkward moments, these pieces are so colorfully written for the piano. There are different textures for each piece, and Dvořák really uses the piano’s full range. This was a period when he started writing programmatic music with descriptive titles, and it seemed like that sparked some real imagination in him and created something very new. 

CALEB: Last year, when last we spoke, you had just finished recording with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Are there any big differences in the way that you prepare when you’re going to record a solo venture versus when you’re going to be recording with a group? 

ANDSNES: When I know I’m going to record with the group, of course, it’s more intense. When it’s just me, I can prepare over a long time and focus on just what I have to do. Normally when I record with an orchestra, it’s after a tour, and we have worked together playing a few concerts extensively and very intensely. The recording sessions themselves are limited, because you cannot keep 50 people on standby for four days. I don’t have endless time with the orchestra, so everything has to be quite effective. When I record solo, I listen to myself and I have more time to analyze different things than when I play with an orchestra.

CALEB: Do you make a habit of listening to historical recordings? Is that part of your preparation or do you want to approach the score in a fresh way?

ANDSNES: There aren’t many recordings for these works, so I felt very free to create my own versions. It can be a burden if you play a piece where there are 100 different recordings and it has a history of interpretation, which is the case with the famous Beethoven sonata or Chopin pieces. In cases like this, there is more freedom, and it can more easily become personal.

CALEB: You routinely perform in both Europe and America. Do you feel a different attitude or approach from the audiences in each place? 

ANDSNES: It’s not that simple. It depends on the place. It depends on the room, how it sounds in that specific room, and what the feeling is between the audience members. That’s what makes this so interesting–it will never be the same. I’m also changing instruments each evening, which makes it even more complicated, but it’s also exciting. You get some instruments that are mellow and mild, some are fiery, some have a gigantic amount of bass, and others have a bell-like treble. You have to use that. How does that communicate with my understanding of these pieces and how can I use this instrument?

Listen to Leif Ove Andsnes’ interview at 7 PM on Sunday, February 12th! Download our app, stream online on, or turn your radio to 89.7 FM!