The Risør Festival of Chamber Music drew to a close over the weekend, with famed pianist Leif Ove Andsnes making an appearance after all. Around 2,000 people brought baskets of food and drink to the festival’s open-air concert on a small island at sunset on Saturday, while the finale took place on Sunday in the town’s fully packed 17th century church.
Andsnes was applauded for his own 17 years of effort as artistic co-director of the festival, held every summer in the small town of Risør on Norway’s southern coast. He’d thought he’d miss this year’s festival, because it coincided with the expected birth of his first child, but she arrived early so he could show up and show her off as well. Andsnes is expected to return as a performing artist at future festivals.
Among the more unusual instruments highlighted at this year’s festival was Per Arne Glorvigen’s bandoneon, an accordion much used in Argentinian tango music. Children and parents were treated to a performance by adult professionals and young amateur musicians at Risør Theatre. The show ended with ice cream for everyone.
The festival spans music ranging from the modern and demanding, through the traditional, to the amusing. Famous composers like Mahler, Schönberg, Liszt, Haydn and others were interspersed with names which will have been new to many in the audience, Piazzola, Duparc, Chausson and Kurtàg, to name a few.
“Exile” was the theme of this year’s music. This took in everything from Antonin Dvorak’s production from his self-elected stay in the US to music written by Gideon Klein at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
In his closing address, Andsnes praised the strong atmosphere of cooperation at the festival. “It’s most unusual for artists who have worked so closely together for so long, to still be such good friends,” he said.
Despite Andsnes’ expected absence from this year’s program, the festival in Risør could boast a full house at most concerts. The new artistic co-director is the young viola player Henning Kraggerud who takes over from Andsnes. He teams up with the veteran Lars Anders Tomter who also plays viola.