‘Too much of a good thing is Wonderful’ – Music Norway’s Intro Composer Jan Erik Mikalsen’s Liberace homage sees its UK premiere on 22 November at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Performed by premier contemporary music ensemble Bit20, the work will also be broadcast by BBC Radio 3.
The work saw its domestic premiere in Bergen in mid-September to critical acclaim. Leading up to the Bergen premiere of ‘Too much of a good thing is Wonderful’, this brand new Music Norway-initiated video depicts the composer as he prepares for the work’s first performance and shares his thoughts on what inspires him as a creator.
A Homage to Liberace
Says Mikalsen on his new work:
– ‘Too much of a good thing is Wonderful’ was commissioned by the bit20 ensemble and world premiered the 14th of September 2014 in Bergen, Norway. The piece is in a way a homage to the American artist Liberace. I’m very fascinated by Liberace and his artistic outcome and the way people think he is kitch. I’m fascinated what is good and bad art, and who decide that Liberace is bad art.
For ‘Too much of a good thing is Wonderful’, Mikalsen has employed a number of compositional tools, including microtonality, to expand on the ensemble’s timbre:
– The piece is sort of the opposite of Liberace; repetitive and calm – sometimes building up to big explosions. The piano has a leading role, without being a solo player. The pianist plays both a piano and a quartertone down-tuned piano. The harp has some of its strings tuned down a quarter tone, and with the percussion, they all make up a small ensemble within the ensemble. At the end, you will hear a piano in the distance playing one of Liberace’s favorite pieces that he used to perform.
For the hcmf// performance, Bith20 is led by conductor Baldur Brönnimann.
Songr for Orchestra
On Thu 30th of Oct, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra is set to perform Mikalsen work ‘Songr for Orchestra’ for the first time alongside pieces from Maja S. K. Ratkje, Lasse Thoresen and Geir Tveitt. Songr – a word derived from the archaic Norwegian word, Norse, for song – represents a departure for the composer. Written for the 2014 Jubilee that celebrates the 200th anniversary of Norwegian independence, the Songr forefronts the national eight-stringed Harding (or Hardanger) fiddle in a string trio. With sections that hint at Norwegian folk songs, it is a composition for a very contemporary Norway, a country whose musical expression does not reside in an idyll of folksy tunes but is rather capable of embracing a greater tonal arrangement.
Intro Composer 2014-16
Mikalsen is Music Norway’s Intro Composer 2014-16 – the organisation’s launch programme for young composers.
INTRO Composer is a Music Norway administered launch/promotional programme in which a composer is given priority and extra funding over a three year period. The programme is staged in partnership with nyMusikk, Ultima and the Norwegian Society of Composers and is supported financially by Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Born in 1979 in Kristiansund on the western coast of Norway, Jan Erik Mikalsen has built up a reputation within Norway for inventive and dynamic compositions that have been commissioned by such major institutions as the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and performed by at festivals such as the Nordic Music Days, Radio France’s Festivale Présences and New York’s Performa 13 (with artist Tori Wrånes). In 2013, Jan Erik’s Parts II for Orchestra was the winner of the prestigious Edvard Prize for the best contemporary music composition.
Jan Erik’s orchestral writing has a visceral power. Works such as his 15-minute Parts for Orchestra (2009) or the Wagner Prelude (2013) display a magisterial capacity to score complex themes and levels of instrumental material. Short and intense, the Wagner Prelude quotes a leitmotif from the beginning of Wagner’s Das Rheingold and manipulates it into a spiral of instrumental sound.