NYC-ARTS

S2020 E493 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: May 21, 2020

Paula Zahn in conversation with world-renowned and celebrated pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. Followed by a visit to The Frick Collection for a look at three paintings by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer.

AIRED: May 21, 2020 | 0:28:15
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♪♪

>> Coming up on "NYC-Arts,"

a conversation with

world-renowned, celebrated

pianist Leif Ove Andsnes.

>> It's so full of

passion of a young man

wanting to conquer the world.

And at the same time,

it has this innocent beauty.

Melodies that come from

the sort of folk-song tradition,

they speak very directly to our

hearts, and it's very intimate.

♪♪

>> And a visit

to the Frick Collection

for a look at three paintings

by the Dutch master Vermeer.

>> We also have another fabulous

painting by Vermeer, and it's

"Officer and Laughing Girl."

And it was purchased by Frick

in 1911.

And just to give you the sense

of how Vermeer's star has begun

to rise at this point,

Frick paid $225,000

just ten years later.

So, he's obviously not only

very interested in Vermeer

but also recognizes the quality

of this particular work.

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported

in part by public funds

from the New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership with the

City Council.

Additional funding provided by

members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible in

part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Good evening,

and welcome to "NYC-Arts."

I'm Paula Zahn,

at the Tisch WNET Studios at

Lincoln Center.

On tonight's program, a

conversation with the celebrated

Norwegian pianist

Leif Ove Andsnes.

The New York Times has called

him a pianist of magisterial

elegance, power, and insight.

AndThe Wall Street Journal

named him one of the most gifted

musicians of his generation.

Known for his commanding

technique

and searching interpretations,

he has won acclaim worldwide,

performing recitals

and concertos

with the world's foremost

orchestras.

An avid chamber musician,

he is also the founding director

of the Rosendal Chamber Music

Festival in his native Norway.

In 2004, he became the youngest

musician at the time,

and first Scandinavian,

to curate Carnegie Hall's

Perspective Series.

And in the 2017-2018 season,

he was artist in residence

with the New York Philharmonic.

Andsnes is the winner

of six Gramophone Awards

for his recordings of chamber

music by Schumann,

concertos by Haydn

and Rachmaninoff,

and works by Grieg and Nielsen.

His ambitious

"Beethoven Journey"

spanned 4 years

and more than 203 performances

in 27 countries.

This season, he's embarking

on a new multiyear project

with the

Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

I had the chance to catch up

with Leif Ove in the middle

of his very busy season,

which included a recent

appearance at Carnegie Hall.

♪♪

Welcome to New York.

I understand this happens

to be one of, New York City

happens to be

one of your favorite cities.

>> I feel so grateful

for so many opportunities here.

I played 30 years ago,

my first recital in

Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie.

I played then my first recital

in the big hall in Carnegie in

the Stern Auditorium 20 years

ago.

And since then so many wonderful

things happened to me here.

The intensity of playing

in that hall

and the beauty of sound,

the magic that you can have

2,800 people

listening just to one piano

and feeling that there can be

intimacy in such a large space.

That's magical.

And then there is the life,

the diversity, everything

the city has to offer.

I just love it.

>> I think New York audiences

do have very high standards,

and I'm curious if there is

a difference as you travel

around the world.

>> You feel

a certain concentration,

silence in the audience

sometimes.

And they respond

in different ways.

In Japan you have a very,

very quiet audience

during the concert.

You wonder

if there is somebody there.

Of course if I play in Vienna,

and so many of the great

composers actually lived there,

they feel an ownership to this

music, which is very special.

But ultimately I feel the music

is so universal,

and that is the wonderful thing.

I can play my Grieg Concerto

in Venezuela or in China

or in northern Norway

or in New York,

and people will react to it,

because it's,

there is something in us

that's being touched deeply.

>> I had the privilege

of hearing you

rehearse the Grieg Concerto,

which was an extraordinary

experience.

Is it a piece that you feel

very deeply?

>> I do.

I also, at some stage,

felt that this was being

too closely connected to me,

because Grieg is Norwegian,

I am Norwegian, and

it was my breakthrough piece

so many places

early in my career.

♪♪

Being a young

Norwegian pianist,

having this great piece

written by the young Grieg --

he was 25 when he wrote it.

It's so full of passion

of a young man

wanting to conquer the world.

And at the same time it has this

innocent beauty,

this childlike beauty,

this sort of melody

that comes from the sort of

folk-song tradition.

And they speak very directly

to our hearts,

and it's very intimate.

So, intimate and extrovert

at the same time --

it's a very potent

concert piece.

I love playing it again now.

♪♪

♪♪

>> You have traveled many,

many thousands of miles,

musically and physically

since your early days

as a budding pianist in Norway.

Tell me a little bit

about the early roots

of your love of music.

Both of your parents

were music teachers, right?

>> They were music teachers.

I'm from a small community,

from an island called Karmoy,

on the western part of Norway.

And I was lucky to have parents

who had connection to music, and

there was a piano in our home.

And they were actually

teaching some,

a few children, in our home,

and that's why I asked

when I was four years old,

I asked my parents,

"Can I also play?

I like this."

>> When did it become clear

to you

that you did have a talent

to travel the world and become

a professional pianist?

>> I think around

the age of 13, 14,

I suddenly realized

that there was no way back,

that this was my life.

This was really my language.

But I do remember, you know,

sitting down at the piano, being

seven, eight, nine, trying

to sight-read certain pieces,

maybe a nocturne of Chopin,

a short piece by Grieg,

some Mozart,

and feeling a sense of wonder

and a sense of,

a sensation that this,

this was my space.

This is my vocabulary.

This is my language.

This is how I can communicate

with the world.

And that was very strong, from

early on.

>> You have spent the better

half of the last decade

and a half doing deep dives

into different composers.

Let's talk about Chopin

for a moment.

What drew you to the ballades

and nocturnes?

>> When I heard the Chopin

ballades, the four ballades,

when I was 11, I think -- had

a small cassettes, you know --

I listened to it day and night,

and I thought I had never heard

such beautiful music.

And I still think it goes

so deep into my heart.

It's the peak

of romantic piano music,

the diversity of emotion

in this music.

And it's ever changing.

There are so many transitions.

You know,

you have a beautiful tune,

and then you have a moment of,

of such sorrow.

And then you have passages

that are very entertaining.

I don't understand how

he was creating his compositions

because it seems like

so improvised.

And it's, at the same time, it's

so coherent as composition.

And these are four

very intense masterpieces,

and I thought I needed to have

a bit of breathing space.

So, I put some nocturnes

in between them.

They are also intense pieces,

but they are

a little bit calmer.

So, that's my portrait of

Chopin.

♪♪

♪♪

>> You also delved into

the music of Sibelius,

who most of us

wouldn't necessarily consider

as a composer for a pianist.

>> It's true.

He's really

not known for his piano music.

He is the orchestra composer.

I mean, for me he's

the greatest Nordic composer,

and his symphonies

and his orchestra music

has followed me

from when I was very young,

and it goes very deep.

And I saw that there were

all these piano pieces

that nobody played.

And I thought, "Isn't it worth

looking at?"

And I read through everything.

It's more uneven.

The piano wasn't his instrument.

You feel when you play it.

It doesn't sound

natural, like it does

with the orchestra for him.

But then there are these jewels

now and then that I, you know,

discovered, as a composition,

so special.

They can seem very simple

on the surface,

and then something surprising

happens after a few seconds.

And you wonder

where is this going,

and there's a mystery around

Sibelius' music, which I adore.

♪♪

And they are so beautiful,

and nobody knows them.

>> You also tackled a very

ambitious project.

It unfolded

over a four-year period.

And that was performing all of

Beethoven's concertos.

>> In 2012 I started

this project,

and I played his piano concertos

again and again

over three or four years,

also sonatas, chamber music.

I was basically only playing

Beethoven.

And when you work on one

language for so long,

I guess you maybe

get better at it,

and you start to

understand and experience

the different layers of it.

And I came out of the project

feeling that this music was just

so structured and so full

of storytelling and contrasts

but with,

you know, almost a spine.

And you feel that

Beethoven knows what he wants.

He always has a goal in mind,

and he takes you by the neck

and says, "Listen to me.

I have something important

to tell you."

But at the end, I came out of it

feeling that his music

is about freedom.

And in the last performances

we did, I worked a lot with

the Mahler Chamber Orchestra,

a wonderful group

in this project.

And the last year in the

performances, I felt a sense

of spontaneity and freedom,

which I had rarely

felt on stage.

♪♪

♪♪

>> And often with the Mahler

Chamber Orchestra, aren't you

conducting from the piano?

>> I hesitate to call it

conducting, but I'm leading.

I'm not a conductor, but yes,

somebody has to conduct and lead

if you don't have a conductor.

>> And what is that experience

like for you?

>> It's challenging,

but I do love it.

I'm then not having a lid

on the piano,

and I'm sitting inside

the orchestra

with the back to the audience,

but with such great contact

with the musicians.

>> I'm wondering

if the experience

of conducting from the piano

has changed the way

you work with a conductor

when you are a soloist.

>> I have maybe

become more conscious

of the whole storytelling.

Now, when you're a soloist,

with the conductor there,

it can be a bit sort of "Now

it's my time,

and now it's your turn."

And the wonderful thing

is when I'm leading

the chamber orchestra,

I'm in the narrative, I'm in

the storytelling all the time.

And that's wonderful

when you play a piece

by Mozart or Beethoven, where

there's so much conversation,

so much dialogue between

the orchestra and me.

>> Back in 2006, I had the honor

of hosting the opening night

at Carnegie Hall, and I believe

you were in the middle

of a project to record several

Mozart concertos.

>> That's right.

>> And are you still

as captivated by Mozart

as you were back then?

>> As a matter of fact, I'm just

starting a Mozart project,

a big one, together with

the Mahler Chamber Orchestra,

who I did

my "Beethoven Journey" with.

And it's called

"Mozart Momentum, 1785-86."

>> Was there something special

that happened

in that short period of time?

>> I think so.

He wrote 27 piano concertos.

And in 1785

he writes his number 20.

It's in D-minor.

It's the first one

which is in minor key,

so it has a darker side to it.

Something very special happened.

Just then he started separating

the soloist from the orchestra.

You know, the kind of heroic

piano concertos which we love

so much from the 19th century,

the Grieg, the Tchaikovsky?

You have the feeling that

the soloist is being thrown out

on the gladiator stage,

and, you know, has to show his

or her strength.

That sort of starts with Mozart.

There's this seed there.

I mean, Mozart is so much

about conversation

with the orchestra, dialogue

and reacting to each other.

But there in 1785 it's like

he thinks, "Oh, I can create

a very interesting story

with making the soloist

an individual,"

different from the orchestra,

which might be the society.

And he changed

the genre of piano concertos

by doing that.

>> What has been the most

rewarding part

of this musical journey for you?

>> It ultimately is

about sharing.

When you're so passionate

about something,

when you love something so much,

and you're able to share it

sometimes in an intimate group,

sometimes with a few

other musicians, sometimes for

2,800 people in Carnegie Hall,

I mean, that's the greatest

gift.

I cannot live my life without

that, sharing music

with other people.

♪♪

♪♪

[ Applause ]

♪♪

>> I'm Margaret Iacono,

assistant curator

at the Frick Collection,

and today we're in the west

gallery of the museum,

looking at some paintings

in our permanent collection.

And you may know that the Frick

Collection was the home of

Henry Clay Frick and his family.

The building was built

in 1913-1914,

and Mr. Frick lived here

until he died in 1919.

His wife lived here

until her death in 1931,

and then

the building was closed,

and expansions were made.

And at that point, we opened

to the public at the end of 1935

as the Frick Collection.

In general, the works in our

collection are all Western

art -- paintings, sculpture,

drawings, pieces of decorative

art, furniture,

and just a wonderful sense

of a domestic setting.

And that's something

that we strive for

at the Frick Collection.

♪♪

There are three Vermeers

in the Frick Collection,

all purchased by Mr. Frick

between 1901 and 1919.

And "Mistress and Maid" was the

last painting that he purchased,

and, in fact, the only painting

he purchased the year that he

died.

We know that after he purchased

it, he sent it up

to his summer home,

Prides Crossing, in Boston,

and it was installed

in his dining room.

And we also know that,

as per archives,

that he changed his seat

at table so that he could

stare at the painting.

Obviously he cared about it

very much, and it is quite

a beautiful work.

And it's very typical Vermeer.

Once again, you have

two interesting ladies,

clad very differently.

One clearly the mistress,

wearing her wonderful

yellow morning coat,

pearls in her hair,

another wonderful pearl earring

that you see in so many works by

Vermeer.

And her maid has just entered

the room and is holding a note.

And her expression

and the mistress's

expression don't really give us

an exact answer.

When we look at the mistress,

we're wondering

is she surprised,

is she anxious,

is she anticipating bad news?

And the big question

is what is in that note.

Vermeer uses his wonderful

painterly skills to create

this beautiful sense of light.

And we see that

on the tablecloth here.

We also see blue and yellow,

the two colors that come up

repeatedly in Vermeer's

palette -- the lemon yellow of

the woman's morning coat,

and the lush blue of the table,

painted so that you feel

like you can almost reach out

and touch the smoothness

of the cloth

and the different folds.

"Girl Interrupted

at her Music" was the first

Vermeer that Frick purchased.

He purchased it in 1901.

He was still living in

Pittsburgh at the time.

And he paid $26,000

for the work, which was actually

quite a considerable price

at the time.

Vermeer very often featured

women in his paintings

but mostly in interior

domestic scenes.

But, again, very typical

of Vermeer,

there's often a vagueness,

an ambiguity to the subjects

and who they are,

and the kind of relationships

they're engaged in.

When we first look, we assume

it's a girl playing music

with her music teacher,

but we think the scene is not

quite that simple.

Vermeer makes it quite

mysterious in the sense

that are some things

that are not well-explained.

For example, the way the music

teacher leans over her

is somewhat suggestive,

as is the fact

that they're looking

at a piece of paper together,

and it's not very clear.

We can't tell what's on it.

So, it could be sheet music,

it could be a love letter,

and I think that,

quite truthfully,

that's one of the great appeals

of Vermeer.

We love mysteries.

We also have another fabulous

painting by Vermeer,

and it's "Officer

and Laughing Girl."

And it was purchased by Frick

in 1911.

And just to give you the sense

of how Vermeer's star

has begun to rise at this point,

Frick paid $225,000

just ten years later.

So, he's obviously not only

very interested in Vermeer

but also recognizes the quality

of this particular work.

And once again we have

this ambiguous relationship.

It does seem to be a romantic

relationship.

We have this soldier.

He is wearing red,

this color of power and passion.

He's wearing a beaver hat.

Beavers were actually extinct

in Europe at this time,

so perhaps the beaver pelts

would have come

from the Americas,

from Canada, from Siberia.

And we actually know

he's not a soldier.

He is actually an officer.

And we know that because he's

wearing this black bandolier

across his uniform.

What's interesting about this

particular painting

is it's one of those works

that have been cited

as a possible work

where Vermeer may have used

the camera obscura.

The camera obscura

is an optical device,

really I guess a forerunner

of the modern-day camera,

and it's been used

since Renaissance time.

So, we do know that artists

have made use of the camera

obscura prior to Vermeer.

And that's been suggested

because of the positioning

of the figures.

The largeness of the figure

of the soldier

and the smallness

in contrast of the woman,

which works quite well to take

us into space and suggest depth.

So, whether he used it or not,

it wouldn't change I think

our appreciation for Vermeer

and his brilliancy.

And in so many paintings by

Vermeer we see a similar setup.

We see a window

generally to the left,

and this wonderful flood

of light coming through.

And Vermeer is just one of

the most special artists when it

comes to the treatment of light.

There's something almost magical

about the pristine quality

of this light,

how it floods into the scene

and really activates

everything in the composition.

I have been asked before when

people are looking at

"Mistress and Maid," where is

the light?

Where is the window?"

And actually even in this

painting we do see the windows.

We just have

to look more closely.

If we look at the glassworks

on the table,

we can actually see

a reflection of window panes

from outside the space.

So, once again,

Vermeer is showing us the light.

But since there are so few

works attributed to Vermeer,

only about 36 that

we know of today,

the fact that Frick was able to

get 3 is really something.

I'm Margaret Iacono,

assistant curator

at the Frick Collection,

and I invite you

to come to the Frick

and look at the many treasures

we have in our collection.

Many of these can only be seen

at the Frick Collection,

and I really feel that if you

come here, you will have a sense

not only of Mr. Frick's

collecting and wonderful

aesthetic interests,

but of the time period,

the wonderful Gilded Age,

that special moment

in New York City.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Thanks for joining us

this evening.

I'm Paula Zahn at the Tisch WNET

Studios at Lincoln Center.

Have a good night.

To enjoy more of your

favorite segments on "NYC-Arts,"

visit our website

at NYC-Arts.org.

♪♪

Good evening, and welcome

to "NYC-Arts."

I'm Paula Zahn.

>> I'm Philippe de Montebello

at the Tisch WNET

Studios at Lincoln Center.

♪♪

>> Leonard, what a privilege

to be able to sit down

and talk with you.

>> I love being here

with you, too, Paula.

>> Where are we?

>> We're at a moment

to take nothing for granted.

>> Well, it's a pleasure to be

with Marci Reaven,

the curator of this exhibition

full of hope.

We are in the midst of some

of the greatest sculptures

by the iconic names.

>> Classical and modern dance

are extremely different,

and I have so much more to learn

before I can really

articulate the differences.

>> And when I listened

to Yip Harburg's lyrics in that,

I suddenly thought, "That's

what I want to do with my life."

>> My pictures reside in very

intimate, very private moments.

>> My primary way of playing

the piano is by improvising.

>> You are in some respects

on sacred ground.

>> A woman came to

see me perform

and said, "How would you like

to play Billie Holiday?"

>> I think one of the essential

things that we learned

is that Matisse

used pens to compose his work.

>> You always are surprised when

you're in opera and you're doing

a piece that's 100 years ago

and you think, "Oh, my gosh,

this could be now."

>> The cardboard guitar is

the very first of that

moment of realization.

>> And suddenly you come

and present something,

and you get applause.

Great, you know?

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported in

part by public funds from the

New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership with the

City Council.

Additional funding provided

by members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible

in part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

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