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Grammy nominee Leif Ove Andsnes is ready to play — but not at awards show

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When the camera catches its first glimpse of a glowing Adele, and Beyonce strikes a post-baby hand-to-hip stance outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Leif Ove Andsnes will be completing Chopin’s “Four Ballades.”

The Grammy nominee will perform Chopin and Debussy during the Grammys.

Just not at the Grammys.

Nominated for best classical instrumental solo for “Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4,” the famed Norwegian pianist won’t pause for the announcement during his program at the Music Center at Strathmore on Sunday evening.

“It’s on the same date, is it?”

Yes. And at the same time.

“I hadn’t realized,” Andsnes said, surprised. One could mistake his award-show apathy for phony modesty, the kind employed by pop stars who secretly obsess over capturing the big one. But his ignorance of all things Grammy is genuine, even necessary — this is Andsnes’s seventh Grammy nomination, and he has never won.

“When people were congratulating me again for a nomination, I said, ‘I don’t want to hear that!’ ” he laughed. “I only want to be congratulated if I win, because I don’t believe I will. I’ve been nominated so many times.

Not that he’s complaining. A prolific recording artist, he is the first to say he was lucky to be discovered in his teens as a pianist at Norway’s Bergen Conservatory, now known as the Grieg Academy. Unlike many students at American conservatories, he claims that he never felt pressure to succeed as a concert pianist.

“I could develop peacefully, gradually, without the feeling of competition there,” said Andsnes, 41. “But when you are from a small country, and you show particular talent, there are advantages. In part, that’s why I was discovered quickly, and how I got a contract with Virgin Classics when I was 20. It’s not so easy now for young pianists.”

And he continues to make it look so easy. After recording more than 40 albums, tributes to Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, he celebrates the 25th anniversary of his recital debut in Oslo this year. He doesn’t credit the recordings, though, with propelling his career. By touring with what some might view as mechanical consistency, Andsnes has remained a formidable performer for decades, one whom audiences flock to, whether he’s playing at a concert hall or an Apple store in Manhattan, as he did last year.

“I’ve been lucky to be able to connect and build an audience in different places,” Andsnes said. “The first time I played in Brussels, I played for 80 or 100 people. Today, I have an audience of 1,500. You have to be there. You have to convince the people to come back and bring friends everywhere you go.”

Perhaps that’s why after seven Grammy nominations, he’s never wanted to attend. He performed in Los Angeles this week but didn’t feel like staying for the fanfare, more eager to play Debussy’s “Images, Book I” in Bethesda than sit through tearful speeches and a Beach Boys reunion.

“It’s funny, because I could have gone this year,” he said, pausing as though considering it for the first time. “But I’d rather be performing. My priority is always the concert.”

Leif Ove Andsnes, Piano

presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. $25-$80. wpas.org.

© The Washington Post Company