Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Picturing Leif

"Modest Mussorgsky's famous suite ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ of 1874 is one of the most demanding pieces for solo piano. It proved so experimental that, over the years, hundreds of artists have taken the work as a starting point for new interpretations. Robin Rhode and I have joined forces and embarked on our journey – a new approach ... It’s an amazing adventure, and not without risks, but hopefully they are risks worth taking.” – Leif Ove Andsnes

Listen to an interview of Leif Ove Andsnes and host John Clare here about this project as well as his latest release. [mp3 file]

Leif Ove Andsnes embarks on a major project that marks a new departure for the internationally acclaimed pianist and exclusive EMI Classics artist. Together with South African-born visual artist Robin Rhode he has created a special program entitled “Pictures Reframed,” which centers around Mussorgsky’s epic piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition and combines music, film and still imagery. EMI Classics will release the project on both DVD and CD in fall 2009 and the world premiere takes place on November 13 (with a second performance on November 14) at New York’s Lincoln Center (Alice Tully Hall), followed by live performances in the United States and throughout Europe during November and December. StatoilHydro is the project’s commissioning sponsor and New York’s Lincoln Center is the commissioning arts institution.
Leif Ove Andsnes is usually alone and center stage in recital; however, for “Pictures Reframed” he will be flanked by an installation of five screens that will surround the piano, evoking a room within an exhibition. “There are pieces of music where you feel everything’s there, everything is said,” comments Andsnes. “Pictures at an Exhibition, however, is the opposite, making it a perfect composition to experiment with, since Mussorgsky’s music is incredibly strong but also very open and experimental. The main thing isn’t the notes themselves, but the composer’s grand vision. For me, therefore, the original version of the work remains almost as a sketch that is open for transformations and changes. You have this wild narrative of a person walking into an exhibition and he crashes into the first picture and is faced with various strong images and textures. Later in the cycle he becomes a part of the picture and it takes on so many aspects. It’s psychologically challenging.”
Leif Ove Andsnes and Robin Rhode share a fascination for Pictures at an Exhibition. Rhode had already been experimenting with images based on Mussorgsky’s work, and his 2008 digital animation “Promenade” has become the opening sequence for “Pictures Reframed”. With its colorful and constantly changing interplay between actor and drawing, it sets the scene fittingly for the musical narrative to follow. “I have always worked very closely with music,” Rhode says, “playing with the notion of rhythm and sound. This new project is not, therefore, so distant from my regular practice, although classical music has such an intense history and that will be a difficult challenge.”
Robin Rhode and Leif Ove Andsnes met for the first time in Munich in September 2007 and ideas for the program have been evolving ever since, moving from piano to studio and back to piano. One of their early meetings took place in a derelict Berlin factory where Rhode started to draw on a bare wall – a backdrop that is often featured in his work, stemming from his introduction to art on the streets of Johannesburg. As Rhode embellished the imaginary instrument, Andsnes stepped forward to perform on it, bringing another dimension to Rhode’s playful and often illusionary work.
Recently their adventure took them to Bergen where Andsnes performed in a disused shipyard as water rushed in. How a flooded piano (the same instrument that Leif Ove had previously played on top of a mountain, an image of which was used to promote his Grieg anniversary release) brings their collaboration to a climax will be revealed this fall as music and art converge on stage.
In addition to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, “Pictures Reframed” will include Andsnes playing Schumann’s Kinderszenen and a new commission by Austrian composer Thomas Larcher, with whom Andsnes and Rhode have both worked in the past.
EMI Classics will release a special luxury collector's edition of “Pictures Reframed”. It will include a DVD and CD packaged together in an exhibition-catalogue-style hardback book with a wide selection of images from the creation and final performance version of the project. In addition, EMI will release a standard CD of a studio recording of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and other solo piano works by Mussorgsky, coupled with Schumann’s Kinderszenen.
Robin Rhode's new solo exhibition in the U.S., entitled “Catch Air”, opened at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio on 2nd April and runs until 26 July. He will also have a large-scale solo exhibition of new work at the Perry Rubenstein Gallery in New York during November 2009, in conjunction with the world premiere of “Pictures Reframed” at Lincoln Center on 13 November.
Norwegian TV (NRK) will film a preview performance of “Pictures Reframed” in Norway this summer, to be broadcast in the fall together with a documentary about the making of the project. The documentary will be syndicated for worldwide broadcast.

Tour dates for “Pictures Reframed” 2009
13 & 14 November: Premiere at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York
16 November: Calgary, Jack Singer Concert Hall
18 November: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
20 November: Washington, Terrace Theatre, Kennedy Center
22 November: Houston, Cullen Hall (matinee concert)
24 November: Brussels, Palais des Beaux–Arts
27 November: Moscow, Tchaikovsky Hall
29 November: Stockholm, Konserthuset
1 December: Hamburg, Kampnagel
2 December: Munich, Prinzregententheater Theater
4 December: London, Queen Elizabeth Hall (2 concerts)
7 December: Naples, venue tbc
9 December: Berlin, Radial System (2 concerts)
11 December: Paris, Theatre des Champs-Elysées
13 December: Copenhagen, Koncerthuset
17 December: Stavanger, Concert Hall
18 December: Oslo, Concert Hall
20 December: Cologne, Philharmonie
16 March: Beijing
29 March: Abu Dhabi

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