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Contemporary: Autumn season’s key international performances

Works by Henrik Hellstenius, Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen, Per Magnus Lindborg, Eivind Buene, Rolf Wallin, Jon Øivind Ness, Ørjan Matre and Knut Vaage set for European performances in October and November.

The repertoire of seven top-level Norwegian contemporary composers are set for October and November performances in Finland, Italy and Germany.

Henrik Hellstenius, Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen, Per Magnus Lindborg, Eivind Buene, Rolf Wallin, Jon Øivind Ness, Ørjan Matre and Knut Vaage’s works will see performances with ensembles such as Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester, The Chamber Orchestra of Lapland, the Oslo Sinfonietta and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra led by conductors Vasily Petrenko, Christian Eggen and Markus Bieringer’s.

Below we’ve listed some highlights from the autumn contemporary concert season, featuring works penned by Norwegian contemporary composers:

Henrik Hellstenius: ‘In Memoriam’

When: 16th of October
Where: Nordic Music Days 2013, Helsinki, Finland
With: Tapiola Sinfonietta, Peter Herresthal, violin soloist . Conductor Nils Schweckendiek.

‘In Memoriam’ is a concerto for violin and string orchestra written in 2012 for the violinist Peter Herresthal, and dedicated to the memory of Erik Hellstenius (1930 -2011).

Composer Henrik Hellstenius (born 1963) studied composition at the Norwegian Academy, with Gérard Grisey at the Conservatoire Superieure in Paris, and computer-supported composition at IRCAM in Paris. His output encompasses a large range of works: chamber music, orchestral works, opera, electroacoustic music and music for theatre, film and ballet. His music is frequently performed at concerts and festivals around Europe. Hellstenius is a professor in composition at the Norwegian State Academy of Music in Oslo.

A selection of works: SERA (opera). Opehelia: Death by water Singing(opera).Stirrings Still (ensemble). Readings of Mr. G. (percussion and string orchestra). In Memoriam : Violin Concerto No 2. Breathings for Chamber Orchestra. Book of Songs 1-3 (various string instruments). Five Imprints of Time (three versions for different instrumentations). Søkk (accordion and tape).


Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen: ‘The Season of Blue Lights for sinfonietta’

When: 16-17th of October
Where: Nordic Music Days 2013, Helsinki, Finland
With: The Chamber Orchestra of Lapland. Conductor: John Storgårds
The Season of Blue Lights (2009) for sinfonietta, hommage to György Ligeti (1923–2006)

Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen (b. 1964, Norway) is a freelance composer, arranger, brass tutor, conductor and teacher. The broad spectre of musical activity, the versitality in his production and his interest in working with amateurs and young musicians, can be explained by the fact that Aagaard-Nilsen regard composing as a kind social activity. “The composers (and artists in general) play a an important role in the society as a guide to experiences”.

His contact with the contemporary music scene in Bergen resulted in commissions from the Norwegian section of ISCM, the BIT 20 Ensemble and festivals like Borealis (Bergen International Contemporary Music Festival) and the International Festival of Bergen (Festspillene).

From the work «The Fourth Angel» (for Trumpet and Sinfonietta), which he commenced in 1992 (recorded by Bodø Sinfonietta in 2002), a line of development goes through the 90s, in which the form endeavors to express both a narrative and a visual aspect in an attempt to reach a music with an impulsive and communicative appearance.
From 1998 (Crossing Lines) the music tends to get more complex and multi-layered as you can explore in works like “Aubade” (2002/03), “Cantilena III” (2006), “Blue Phrases” (2007) and “The Season of Blue Lights” (2008/09. In 2012, the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra/Christian Lindberg premiered the commissioned orchestral work, Boreas Sings.


Per Magnus Lindborg’: ‘Man bör kalle saker och ting vid deres rätte namn’ for chamber ensemble and sound files

When: 16-17th of October
Where: Nordic Music Days 2013, Helsinki, Finland
With: The Chamber Orchestra of Lapland. Conductor: John Storgårds

‘Man bör kalla saker vid deras rätta namn for 12 musicians and soundfiles’ is a fruit of Lindborg’s ongoing research in voice analysis and rhetoric as a metaphor for composition. The musical material is entirely extracted from a famous 2-minute speech by Swedish Primer Minister Olof Palme given in December 1972. In it, Palme heavily criticizes the US bombings of Hanoi currently taking place. As well as explicitly featuring Palme’s voice, all instrumental writing is derived from it. The compositional techniques employed software tools developed for the purpose by the composer and are described in a chapter in “OM Composer Book 2” (Ircam 2008). Importantly, more than the political aspects of the speech, Lindborg has been fascinated by Palme’s vocal rhythm and prosody, fully expressing a righteous and subdued anger, perceptible ‘under the surface’ of his voice.

PerMagnus Lindborg (born in Sweden, 5th of April 1968) is a composer, performer and researcher. He is a member of the Norwegian Society of Composers since 1994 and Assistant Professor since 2007 at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He studied piano, trombone, mathematics, languages, classical music and jazz improvisation in his native Sweden before concentrating on composition. He obtained degrees from Oslo (Norwegian Academy of Music 1995) and Paris (Ircam 1999 and a DEA from Paris-4 Sorbonne 2003) and studied privately with Klas Torstensson in the Netherlands. Lindborg was twice awarded a Young Artist Grant (1998 and 1999) from the Norwegian government.

Since 1995, he has published more than 50 artistic works, in the fields of concert music composition, opera, sound installation design, and programming-performance of interactive music, which have been performed and presented live in more than 20 countries. Select compositions have been released on ECM Records and Daphne Records, and with sound artist group freq_out, on Ash International. Highlights include: Khreia for orchestra winning the First Prize in the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra Nordic Composer’s Competition 2002, Norway; Extra Quality #2 for dancers and electronics commissioned for the Agora Festival at Centre Pompidou 2002, Paris; TreeTorika for saxophone and chamber orchestra commissioned by Ensemble Ernst for Ultima Festival 2006, Oslo; and Nermal SonoSofisms for chamber orchestra winning the Audience Price at Forum 1996, Montreal.

Eivind Buene: ‘Scherzophrenia’ for orchestra

When: 18th of October
Where: Nordic Music Days 2013, Helsinki, Finland
With: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Baldur Brönnimann

Scherzophrenia is, as the title suggests, a piece with multiple identities: A meditation on the traditional form of the Scherzo, and at the same time an attempt to escape this tradition. One reason for confronting the Scherzo was the urge to focus on rythm. I try to examine the interplay between the orchestra and the percussion, traditionally a marginal group within a symphonic context. The relation can be described as two crossing processes: In the beginning, the percussion and the rest of the orchestral body are juxtaposed as two different identities. The percussion is presented thorugh three different groups of instruments: metal, membranes and wood. These categories of sound are absorbed by the orchestral body, as the percussive sounds ‘infect’ the other instrumental groups. The other process is a counterforce, where the collective mass of the orchestra encompass and absorb the percussion, placing it inside the orchestral hierarchy. The play between these different forces is broken by a middle section dominated by woodwinds. The piece ends with a chord of fragile and unresolved balance between percussion and orchestra.

Born 1973. Studied at the Norwegian Academy of Music and has been a freelance composer living and working in Oslo, writing for a wide array of ensembles and orchestras since 2000. Has recieved commissions from a.o. Ensemble Intercontemporain, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Fondation Royaumont and a variety of Scandinavian orchestras and ensembles and has been performed performed at prestigous venues like Carnegie Hall, Berlin Philharmonie and Carnegie Hall, and festivals such as Gaudeamus, Nordic Music Days, Music Biennale Zagreb, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Ultima. Apart from writing music for soloists, ensembles and orchestras, he frequently engages in collaborations with improvising musicians, developing music in the cross-section between classical notation and improvisation. Is also known as a successful author in Norway.

A selection of works: Allsang (choir, fiddler, two folk singers). Anatomic Notebook (ensemble). Deaths and Entrances (sax and sinfonietta). Landscape With Ruins (piano trio, piano quintet or ensemble). Objects of Desire (elpiano and sinfonietta). Possible Cities (ensemble). Three Improvisations for Wolfgang (piano and orchestra). Sotto voce (clarinet). Topographics (wind band).

Eivind Buene website.


Rolf Wallin: ‘Onda di Ghiaccio’ for 16 instrumentalists

When: 16th of November
Where: Milano Musica, Italy. Auditorium di Milano
With: Oslo Sinfonietta. Conductor: Christian Eggen

Rolf Wallin, born 1957. is a versatile musician, having distinguished himself not only as one of Scandinavia’s leading composers today, but also as a performance artist and, early in his career, as a jazz and rock musician. As a composer he freely combines computer-generated systems and mathematical formulae with intuitive approaches and the complex, yet very plastic textures of his music are reminiscent of composers such as Xenakis and Ligeti. Wallin’s work list includes instrumental and electroacoustic works, absolute music and stage music; his continuous crossing of borders between genres and styles has resulted in a number of fruitful cross-fertilizations.

A selection of works: .though what made it has gone (voice and piano). Chamber ensemble: Onda di ghiaccio, Boyl, Stonewave. Orchestra: Chi, Clarinet Concerto, Ground, Strange News.

Rolf Wallin official site.


Jon Øivind Ness: ‘My Bloody Mudfish’ – Premiere

When: 16th of November
Where: Milano Musica, Italy. Auditorium di Milano
With: Oslo Sinfonietta. Conductor: Christian Eggen

Profile composer of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2012-13 season. Born 1968. Studied guitar and composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Throughout the 1990s, he frequently made references to popular culture. In later years, he has oriented himself more towards the energy found in prog-rock. He later developed a continuously transposing bi- or poly-tonal harmonic system – a system that facilitates improvisation. He has also combined this system with micro tonality. Humour has always played a major part in Ness’ music, but as the composer has experienced an increasing hostility towards less accessible forms of cultural expression from the general public in later years, his humour has taken on a meaner and darker character.

A selection of works: Schatten (small orchestra). Dandy Garbage (small orhestra), Dangerous Kitten (trombone and sinfonietta). Fierce Kentucky Mothers of Doom (2 trombones and 2 sinfoniettas). Jønjiljo (sinfonietta). 5 arrangements for Diamanda Galas and orchestra. My Bloody Mudfish (sinfonietta). An den langen Lüssen (6 voices, wind orchestra). Low Jive (orchestra). Mjær (orchestra).


Ørjan Matre: ‘preSage for orchestra

When: 13th of October
Where: Philharmonie Berlin
With: Rundfunk- Sinfonieorchester. Conductor: Vasily Petrenko

Profile composer of Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2013-14 season. Born 1979. Studied composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Has distinguished himself as a distinct voice in Norwegian music, and has in relatively short time been awarded high-profile commissions by leading performers, ensembles and orchestras. Matre was one of two INTRO Composers in the period 2010-12. He was awarded the Arne Nordheim Composition Prize in 2012, and is featured as profile composer of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in the 2013-14 season.

A selection of works: Clarinet Concerto. Four Miniatures for Orchestra. Händel Mixtapes : For two tape recorders and orchestra. Elegy for C. I. : For solo violin and piano. Atem : For ensemble.

Ørjan Matre official site.


Knut Vaage: ‘Someone is going to come (Opera)

When: 2nd of November to 24th of January 2014
Where: Kaiserslautern
With: Pfalzteater Orchestra Conductor: Markus Bieringer

Jon Fosse is a major figure in the modern literature of Norway. Initially establishing his reputation as a novelist, he has largely worked as a dramatist since the mid-1990s and his work has been extensively performed across Europe and in the U.S.A. He has been widely described as the most important Norwegian dramatist since Ibsen. He writes in a very austere fashion, brief speeches often repetitively patterned.Someone is Going to Come(Nokon kjem til å komme) was first performed in 1996. A later Parisian production of the play promptedLe Mondeto describe him as “the Beckett of the 21stcentury”.

Knut Vaage (working in collaboration with Fosse) adapted Fosse’s play as the libretto for his own one act opera, which was premiered in 2000. The text has a distinctive poetry, creating through its highly patterned language a powerful exploration of the tensions inherent in human relationships; it occupies a theatrical idiom which, paradoxically, straddles the boundaries between realism and absurdism. It presents an elemental theatrical situation in simple language.

Born 1961. Lives in Bergen. Graduated as pianist and composer from the Grieg Academy in Bergen. Has worked in various styles of music, though concentrating on improvised and contemporary music, often investigating the boundaries between improvisation and composed music. His work list spans from chamber music to orchestra and opera. His music has been regularly performed on concerts and at festivals in Norway and abroad and he also been bestowed with Norwegian and international prizes.

A selection of works: Kahiros (opera). Someone is Going to Come (opera). Veslefrikk (family opera). Movements (sinfonietta). Transit (sinfonietta). Continue (orchestra). Chaconne (flute, harp, orchestra). Gardens of Hokkaido (piano, orchestra). Graffiti (brass band).

Knut Vaage official site.


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