Leif Ove Andsnes ended his European recital tour in Munich on Sunday night, the last of 14 concerts which has taken him from Spain to Switzerland, Austria, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Belgium.   Following are a selection of the latest review highlights which followed the musical journey.

“Väinämöinen is the name of the old bard in the famous Finnish medieval epic “Kalevala”. The pianist Leif Ove Andsnes is no Finn, but Norwegian, but he also understands himself as a bard. Again and again he lets the grand piano in Munich’s Prinzregententheater roar as if he has a harp in his hand. And then, unexpectedly, single tones, melodic fragments or even whole songs emerge from this murmur, which wordlessly conjure distant European worlds of the 19th century. With Sibelius it goes to Finnish plains, birch-covered and pervaded by shepherds, with Schubert and Beethoven Vienna is remembered, with Chopin Warsaw and Paris … With the effect that Sibelius, who rarely appears as a piano composer, turns out to be a very close relative of Schubert, Beethoven and Chopin. Frédéric Chopin’s F minor Ballad, which concludes the evening, proves to be a synthesis of Andsnes’s aesthetics. Every single thought in it is perfectly beautiful in itself.”  Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany

“… he knows how to feel an inner nervousness under a surface of calm and beauty … A cleverly composed piano recital, an outstanding pianist.”  Abendzeitung München

“Idyll and abyss” is how Jörg Widmann subtitles his six “Schubert reminiscences” for piano, written in 2009: musical splinters of funny, sad and increasingly rigid character, which are intended to shed light on the ambiguities of the Viennese master. Leif Ove Andsnes makes the contrast sharp in the chamber music hall (of the Berlin Philharmonie) with great care: glaring suggestions in the treble, fierce bass accents, pale clusters tear fragments from Schubert’s lands or Impromptus … ”  Der Tagesspiegel, Germany

“For me, Schubert’s stunning Drei Klavierstücke D946 of 1828 included the evening’s most lyrical passages (in Lucerne), and I was also impressed by the noticeable attention Andsnes paid to the active dialogue in the work. He sometimes used the scripted pauses to look straight ahead as if to ask the composer, “What, that?” Further, and particularly in the third movement, his momentum was rousing, such that the piece just shone with ebullience … The concert ended with a small feast of two Frédéric Chopin works, both from the 1840s. The Nocturne in B major, Op.62, no. 1 moved from the delicate to emphatic in a heartbeat: sheer magic. Then, given its audio loops, ribbons, tempi changes and rotund, robust melodies, the dance music of the Ballade no. 4 in F minor, Op.52 was just as inspired. In the finale, a whole universe of notes was played furiously, and Andsnes had to master a huge physical challenge: one could hear him pacing his breathing even from the 15th row. Yet as challenging as that effort was, so tremendous was our enjoyment!”  Bachtrack.com, UK 

“This sold out concert (in Antwerp) was part of his European tour. Andsnes plays in a different metropolis almost every day. A hurried life brings hunted music one would think. However, in  practice this performance showed the audience a pianistic master in the art of sifting …  The most remarkable piece in this performance was – against all personal expectations – in the interpretation of two pieces by Franz Schubert  – Drei Klavierstücke, D946 and the Tempest Sonata  by Ludwig van Beethoven  … a listening experience which was very deep and emotional. Lyricism was created without strokes and explosion. Just that exact dose caused wonder by the pure character with which the compositions were honoured.”  Klassiek Central, Belgium

“Andsnes is not interested in the “integrals”, the analysis of the repertoire on the basis of chronological divisions: what counts is still its relationship with certain elements of the musical literature particularly congenial to him. His is always a reading that takes into account the tradition and the possible multi-level analysis of the text, but which tends to bring out more the communicative side, more immediate access, leaning on an intense but never simplistic cantabile. The opposite, then, of what many artists do that seem more interested in vivisecting a musical page hiding behind a presumed objectivity that often does not arrive at a truly convincing concert result.”  Corriere della Musica, Italy

“His modesty in appearance – both human and musical – allows him perform without any show. He refuses the grand gesture even where the pieces easily tempt … Andsnes is known for a performing culture that lacks nothing in terms of clarity and thoroughness … The Norwegian presents a Chopin with backbone. Straightforward design, clear tone and reduced rubato. This is far from Salongesäusel. How Andsnes interweaves the middle voices in the polyphonic Nocturne nevertheless astounds. As he plunges into the tragedy of the ballad at breakneck speed, he takes one’s breath away. The amazing thing about his playing: The feeling never comes to be cheated on detail. That’s what makes his interpretations so masterful, no matter what he plays.”  Leipziger Volkskrant, Germany

“Andsnes has dedicated his latest record (Sony, CD 88985408502) to the piano music of Jean Sibelius – works that the great Finnish composer wrote throughout his life as hand exercises, but which are much more than that. Sibelius is no less a Nordic response to Chopin, combining his sonic piano style with Scandinavian idioms à la Grieg, Gade and Sinding. The result is a catchy, yet never light-weighted music, which even in the limited context of character pieces such as “Impromptu” and “Romance” always let the far-flung breath of the symphonist be felt.” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland

“It was high time that – long since Glenn Gould – once again a pianist of rank is making a strong case for the piano music of the Finn Jean Sibelius. Leif Ove Andsnes is clearly opposed to his poor image as a bland salon romantic with his recent CD release on Sony Classical. The Norwegian pianist also performed five miniatures in the Kölner Philharmonie: music that alternates between smooth convention and brittle originality in an exciting way and also strikingly captured by his interpretation …  Andsnes had embedded the five pieces in a clever program concept, which was entwined with the idea of romanticism – prepared with Beethoven, fulfilled by Schubert and Chopin and summoned from an historical distance by Jörg Widmann.”  Kölner Stadt Anzeiger, Germany