In the same week that he brings the complete Brahms Piano Quartets to Symphony Center, Leif Ove Andsnes will make a return engagement of sorts. His documentary, “Conccerto — A Beethoven Journey” (2015), which explores Andsnes’ efforts to “understand and interpret one of the greatest sets of works for piano ever written,” opens April 15 for a weeklong run at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Filmed over four years by award-winning director Phil Grabsky, the documentary follows Andsnes on his quest to find the definitive interpretation of Beethoven’s five concertos. As he performs the works on the world’s greatest stages, Andsnes gleans insights into the music and the man behind it.
In a happy coincidence, Symphony Center has programmed Beethoven’s five piano concertos as one of the pillars of its 2016-17 season. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform four of the five works, with different soloists, and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, as part of the SCP Orchestras series on Feb. 8, will present Richard Goode in the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Other dates in the season-long cycle are: Oct. 20-22, Emanuel Ax in No. 1, with the CSO conducted by David Afkham; Feb. 16-18, Yefim Bronfman in No. 4, with the CSO under Riccardo Muti; March 16, 18-19 and 21, Mitsuko Uchida in No. 3, with the CSO and Muti, and April 27-29, Radu Lupu in No. 5 (Emperor), with the CSO and Muti.
Known to classical music fans for his “In Search of” documentary series, director Grabsky filmed Andnes in venues ranging from an intimate salon near the pianist’s Norway home to the majestic Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Along with the usual digital cameras, Grabsky and his team employed a keyboard-mounted camera to capture close-ups of the pianist in performance. “I knew this exclusive journey with Leif Ove would allow me access to great performance – but I had no idea it would be this great,” Grabsky said. “Even more important, the music and Leif Ove’s intelligent and accessible insight creates a staggeringly interesting new biography of arguably the greatest composer of all time.”
Tickets for “Concerto — A Beethoven Journey” are $11 for nighttime screenings, with discounts available for Film Center members and students with valid IDs. Seats are still available for Andnes’ complete Brahms Piano Quartets concert April 10 at Symphony Center (with violinist James Ehnes replacing the previously scheduled Christian Tetzlaff). Subscriptions are available for CSO and SCP series now online at cso.org, by phone (312-294-3000) or at the box office (220 S. Michigan), with single tickets going on sale in August.
The trailer for “Concerto — A Beethoven Journey”: