Wednesday, 19 May 2010


While out on a coastal stroll, I was listening to two of my favourite Norwegians on my iPod. One of them was Grieg, for this was a recording of his Lyric Pieces for piano. The other was the person doing the piano-playing. It was extremely moving for, not only is this guy a super-star of the piano...he also happens to be the very first Norwegian with whom I shared dinner.

Who was yours? Unless you are Norwegian yourself, I’m sure you will be able to recall the moment. Norwegians, after all, are keen on meals and apt to rise to the sense of occasion dinner can provoke with admirable formality, delightful manners and sparkling conversation. I will apologize in advance. You will have to indulge me here, since my first Norwegian dinner companion was, and is, world famous, thus affording me a first class name-dropping opportunity. Listening to that music now, the lustre has not faded...he continues to remain one of my absolute favourite Norwegians.

It is an established fact that I am rather partial to a man on a piano. This inconvenient affliction has provided numerous exotic encounters and entertaining highlights, and even now shows little sign of abating. So imagine my delight when, many years ago and in a former role, I was tasked with taking the fabulous Leif Ove Andsnes to dinner.

Leif Ove had been in Scotland for several days and was appearing as the soloist for that particular week with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Having delighted both Glasgow and Edinburgh with his genius, he was then escorted to the North East where he thrilled Aberdonians at the Music Hall. Afterwards, a hearty dinner had been arranged at which, whether he felt like it or not, he was obliged to sit with a famous conductor to his right and his assistant for the evening (that would be me) to his left.

Poor bloke. He was only 21. He was probably desperate to go out clubbing or something. Or at least put his feet up, order room service and watch the footie. But no, he got me instead, ever-so-slightly his senior and painfully interested in men who play pianos.

Despite everything, Leif Ove was charm itself. He spoke with eloquence of his childhood home on the Norwegian island of Karmoy, (gosh, we could have been neighbours, almost). He spoke of fjords, mountains and indeed skiing. He politely mentioned his admiration for the new Steinway that Glasgow had just purchased for its concert hall, and told me of the wondrous sea-view from his own piano at home. Naturally I was enthralled, not just by his conversation, his tales of Norway nor his fame, but his devastating demeanour may well have played a part. No doubt I bored him rigid with some utterly dreary rubbish, but he was gallant enough to look fascinated.

The next day, after playing like a god in Dundee, he hot-footed it back to Norway and will of course have absolutely no recollection of all this, particularly the part involving ‘moi’. Ah, plus ca change. The peripatetic nature of a world-class pianist’s job does not lend itself to remembering strange women at dinner. He had a fjord to get to, and he was anxious to concentrate on Beethoven and Rachmaninov . But it’s a dinner I am unlikely to forget.

So last winter, the very kind TA took me to hear and indeed see, the great Leif Ove once again. He strode onto the platform here in Stavanger, and immediately began an utterly masterful rendition of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. From the moment he appeared and went ‘Dang, dang, dang, dagga-dung, daggu-dung, dang....etc’ I was spell-bound once again. His playing was sublime. He continued with Schumann’s ‘Kinderszenen’, during which the TA was compelled to hand me his silk handkerchief as I succumbed to waves of hopeless emotion. Leif Ove played for 80 minutes solid, without a single sheet of music before him, and stole my heart once again.

Honestly, these Norwegians. It’s not good for a girl. And to be a Norwegian and a piano player all wrapped into one...really, one's cup runneth over. That man can really, really, really play the piano. I dare you to listen and not be moved.

And I’m ordering you now...if Leif Ove is appearing at a piano near you, don’t miss him.


  1. My mother was right after all, I should have continued my piano lessons :)