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From fjord to fame: A Norwegian concert pianist hits the world stage

Out of the land of Grieg comes Leif Ove Andsnes. His mission: to compete with ringtones, iTunes, and YouTube for short attention spans.

Musical summitry: Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes played atop a mountain for a documentary about composer Edvard Grieg. (The piano was hoisted by helicopter.) He played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra recently.

Courtesy of NRK

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Norway, ah Norway. The land of rugged mountain men who scale craggy peaks and ... plunk pianos atop them? It may be a scene from a TV documentary, but the handsome guy hammering the ivories cliff-side is no actor. Leif Ove Andsnes is the real thing.

The windswept island of Karmøy off Norway's western coast isn't exactly known for world-class concert pianists. But who better to host a Norwegian TV special about that nation's only well-known composer, Edvard Grieg, than Mr. Andsnes, who, from Karmøy's remote shores, launched an unlikely career of global stardom?

So popular at home that he had to acquire a flat in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, for breathing room, Andsnes occasionally has the opposite problem abroad.

"I've had some rather arrogant Italian audiences – it takes time to convince them," laughed Andsnes over breakfast in Boston last weekend. "You know, I am coming from cold Norway to their great country with so much culture. But once they are convinced, they are very faithful.

• • •

This weekend, it will be a New York audience he'll try to win over, tackling his biggest project of the year – the nearly hourlong Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 – with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He's coming off a successful Boston stop where he teamed with veteran conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and the Boston Symphony Orchestra for three well-received performances of Rachmaninov's Concerto No. 2.

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