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Andsnes studied with Czech pianist Jiří Hlinka at the Bergen Conservatory. He won his first major award, the Hindemith Prize, in Frankfurt in 1987, making his Oslo debut the same year. Many prizes followed: in Bergen, the Levin Prize in 1988 and the Grieg Prize in 1990; and in Oslo, the Norwegian Critics’ Prize in 1988. His Proms debut in London was made in 1992 and in the same year Andsnes received a Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award in Los Angeles; whilst in 1997 he received the prestigious Gilmore Award. Always interested in chamber music, in 1991 Andsnes co-founded the Risør Festival of Chamber Music with Lars Anders Tomter; and in 2000 he invited to the festival tenor Ian Bostridge, with whom he has worked from then on. Other artists who have been invited to the festival include Barbara Hendricks and Maxim Vengerov. Festivals in which Andsnes has taken part include Aspen, Ravinia, Tanglewood, and the New York Mostly Mozart Festival.

In the 2001–2002 season Andsnes was established enough to give five concerts at London’s Barbican entitled Leif Ove Andsnes: Artist Profile. He played three concertos, a chamber music concert and a solo recital. December 2001 saw his debut in Russia where he played Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 Op. 30 with the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, whilst during the same season Andsnes played with many of the major symphony orchestras of the world including the Chicago Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland, the Concertgebouw and the Philadelphia.

In May 2002 Andsnes was made a Commander of the Order of St Olav, one of the most distinguished of Norwegian awards.

Currently signed to EMI, Andsnes made his first records for Virgin Classics in 1990. Not surprisingly one of the first discs was of the Grieg Piano Concerto Op. 16, but in 1991 he made a disc of Janáček which won a German Schallplattenkritik Award. Other releases from the early 1990s include viola sonatas by Brahms with Lars Anders Tomter and a Chopin disc containing an extremely fine Sonata in B minor.

Andsnes is one of the most rounded of young performers who can turn his hand to miniatures by Grieg and also excel in the big Romantic concertos by Brahms (No. 1) and Rachmaninov (No. 3). He has already recorded such cornerstones of the repertoire as Schumann’s Fantasie Op. 17 as well as music by Norwegian composers. His versatility is also demonstrated in recordings of concertos by composers as diverse as Haydn and Shostakovich, but for the virtuoso Liszt he perhaps does not have enough of the ‘devil-may-care’ approach.

In 2002 Andsnes embarked on a series of Schubert recordings where he juxtaposes the piano sonatas with songs sung by Ian Bostridge. In 2003 EMI paired him with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in a recording of the concertos by Grieg and Schumann that scored a critical success. This was followed in 2005 by highly praised recordings of the first two piano concertos by Rachmaninov, but with recordings by Krystian Zimerman and Stephen Hough also released around the same time, the field was highly competitive.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).

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