Leif Ove Andsnes’ Bergen

The award-winning Norwegian pianist is a leading interpreter of Grieg. The latest recording of his Beethoven Journey musical tour was iTunes’ Best Instrumental Album of 2012

Image: Chris Aadland

“An ideal weekend for me is one spent at home in Bergen, where I’ve lived since I came here to study when I was 16. My performing schedule means I spend so much time alone in hotels that it’s a real pleasure just to be surrounded by family without too much to do.

Saturday begins with a long, leisurely breakfast. Fortunately, our three-year-old daughter loves to sleep, so my wife, Ragnhild, and I don’t have to start too early, usually 9am, which is very civilised, especially if the twins [who were born three months prematurely in May] have kept us up during the night. Often we’ll have relatives staying, too; I grew up on Karmøy, an island near Stavanger, with three sisters, so there might be eight or 10 of us round the table. But I’m very English when it comes to what I have: strong tea, and toast with thick-cut marmalade.

It’s important that I get time to practise, so I then go up to the loft, where I keep my piano, and isolate myself for a few precious hours until lunchtime. Norwegians don’t really bother with lunch though, so I’ll just have some bread. We consume a huge amount of bread in Norway, but it’s a healthy kind with lots of grains.

Even so, I love cooking and having friends round, so this is when I’ll start composing the dinner menu. Once I’ve worked it out, I’ll take my daughter into town to shop. We have a great fish market and a delicatessen, Colonialen, which stocks the most wonderful cheeses, hams and olive oil. It also has a restaurant, which I’d say is the best in Bergen, but I spend so much time eating out while travelling that I prefer to dine at home when I’m here. Next I go to Kjøttbasaren, which translates as “meat bazaar”, since the building is a restored 19th-century meat market, though now it contains lots of little restaurants and shops. Once home, I start the meal: something Italian, or often I just let the ingredients speak for themselves. I like Japanese food for that reason, but haven’t yet learnt to make it.

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If I’ve eaten a lot on Saturday, then on Sunday I’ll want to go walking in the country. Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains, and there’s a great five-hour hike between two of them, Fløyen and Ulriken. Or you can take the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Fløyen, and within eight minutes you’re surrounded by nature, with views across the fjords.

It’s also pleasant to walk in the city. There’s the beautiful old-harbour area, Bryggen, full of wooden buildings, some dating back to the 14th century. And there’s a place called Kode with a little lake, Lille Lungegårdsvannet, surrounded by art galleries offering anything from Munch exhibitions to the more avant-garde. There are some Norwegian artists I love: Håkon Bleken, for instance, and Kai Fjell, one of whose paintings I’ve bought.

I also like going to the Edvard Grieg Museum [pictured] in the composer’s villa, Troldhaugen, which holds lunchtime concerts. In 2002, I made a recording of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces in the sitting room there, playing his Steinway from 1892. That was a haunting experience.

Once in a while, I’ll go to a concert at the Grieghallen [Grieg Hall], where I worked as an usher when I was a student. Ragnhild is a horn player with the Bergen Philharmonic, which is based there. It’s also the home of the Bergen International Festival, probably the biggest arts festival in the Nordic countries, which closes with a performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto. All the greats have played it here – Gilels, Richter, you name them – and when I was 18, I was asked to. That still feels by far the biggest concert I’ve ever done, even though I’ve played at the festival almost every year since.

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On Sunday evening I work at the piano for a few hours, then prepare a simple supper of risotto or pasta. Afterwards I might read – I like the Norwegian writer Roy Jacobsen – or watch something silly on television. We’ve just discovered the US comedy Modern Family. An episode or two and we’re ready for bed.”

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