Music in a Free State

A brand new book and an extensive concert series - MIC contributes to the centennial celebration of Norwegian independence with "Music in a Free State - Norwegian Orchestral Music 1905 - 2005".

Music in a Free State - bokomslag

At a press conference at Bergen’s Grand Hotell Terminus on Thursday 27th May, MIC unveils the new book and plans for an extensive concert series under the joint title “Music in a Free State – Norwegian Orchestral Music 1905-2005”. The book and concert series represents a major effort to highlight the most central Norwegian orchestral works and composers from the hundred years that (next year) have passed since the dissolution of the union with Sweden (in 1905). The book and accompanying concert series represent a very broad repertoire and a varied selection of composers ranging from traditional folk-tinted outings to futuristic and genre-defying explorations. The featured works span from such central and traditional works as Johan Halvorsen’s “Coronation Cantata” to contemporary composer Lasse Thoresen’s as-yet un-premiered commissioned work.

I addition to the (very delicate and aesthetic) book and impressive concert series that features 20 leading Norwegian composers and works, the large scale MIC project also includes thorough restoration of several historically important orchestral works and development of an extensive web-site devoted to “Music in a Free State”.

In addition to MIC director Morten Walderhaug, representatives for the Centennial Anniversary Norway 2005 Ltd. and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, composer Olav Anton Thommessen and Norway’s Minister of Culture Valgerd Svarstad Haugland are present at the Bergen press conference.

The composers profiled in the book and through the concert series are: Johan Halvorsen, Gerhard Schjelderup, Hjalmar Borgstrøm, Leif Halvorsen, Arvid Kleven, Pauline Hall, Ludvig Irgens-Jensen, Fartein Valen, Harald Sæverud, Geirr Tveitt, Finn Mortensen, Alfred Janson, Antonio Bibalo, Arne Nordheim, Olav Naton Thommessen, Ketil Hvosleff, Asbjørn Schaatun, Ragnar Söderling, Rolf Wallin and Lasse Thoresen. The book has been edited by Erling Sandmo, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Oslo.

Says MIC director Morten Walderhaug on the upcoming book and concert series: “Music in a Free State” is more than a book about important works by twenty Norwegian composers from 1905 to 2005 and the development of Norwegian orchestras during that period. This book is part of a major cooperative project with the same title. The aim of the project is to shed light on the qualities of Norway’s orchestral culture with a view to ensuring that Norwegian orchestral works composed in the past century will be heard more frequently in concert halls and delight growing audiences at home and abroad. We want to present the best of Norwegian symphonic music written during the time frame from 1905 to 2005 – a very exciting period with a wealth of stylistic expressions ranging from late romanticism via impressionism and national moods to twelve-tone music and modernism.”

The MIC director is grateful for the support of the five central Norwegian orchestral institutions: “Music in a Free State” would not have been feasible unless the directors and programme committees of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra had permitted the twenty selected works to be included in their seasonal programmes. This is the first time all the orchestras in the country are cooperating on a nationwide concert series, and it is the first time Norway’s creative and performing orchestral culture will be exposed on this scale. Given the orchestras’ long planning period and complicated production logistics, this is a triumph of cooperation in today’s Norwegian music community. The directors of the St. Olav Festival of Trondheim, the Ultima Festival and the Bergen International Festival must be thanked for allowing three major works to be incorporated into their respective festival programmes. They have thereby ensured an impressive backdrop for the performances of works by Ludvig Irgens Jensen, Finn Mortensen and Olav Anton Thommesen.”

In co-operation with the Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger symphony orchestras as well as the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and two musicologists, MIC has compiled a selection of 20 major works dating from this 100-year long period. This historical event marks the first joint concert series collaboration between the professional Norwegian symphony orchestras.

For most orchestral institutions and audiences in Norway and abroad, the term “Norwegian Music” has been tantamount to works by Edvard Grieg and a small group of contemporary composers. This has led to the notion of a Norwegian orchestral tradition that lacks central works in the post-Grieg period. The aim of MIC’s Orchestra 2005 project has thus been to rectify this delusion through showcasing and spreading of the rich values and qualities that is associated with the Norwegian orchestral tradition.

Given the current climate surrounding the contemporary orchestras, conditions for performances of the 20 selected works are far more favourably today than at the time of their premieres. It is our stated aim that one through this series of concerts will contribute to a continuation of the importance of the country’s own voice within the field of Norway’s orchestral music.

The main celebrations of the Centennial will take place in June 2005. The orchestral works will be performed by Norwegian orchestras during the 2004/2005 season, starting in August 2004 with the St. Olav Festival in Trondheim and ending up with the Bergen International Festival in June 2005. The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation plans to present the concert series trough the networks of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

In addition to a high degree of equity financing on the part of MIC and the contributing orchestras, the project will be funded by a number of Norwegian public funds and institutions, of which The Centennial Anniversary Norway 2005 Ltd. is the main contributor.

An important aim of the project is to disseminate information on Norwegian orchestral repertoire and to encourage international orchestras to pick up some of the repertoire highlighted in “Music in a Free State”. For orchestral institutions that have had their interest kindled, MIC can offer scores and parts (some of which have been totally restored), the aforementioned (and very delicate) book, a website (to be launched early summer 2004) featuring articles on the composers, works and participating orchestras and festivals as well as recordings of the featured works.

Read exclusive excerpts from MIC’s “Music in a Free State” book here:
Erling Sandmo has written “Orchestras in music history” while Erling Gulbrandsen has outlined "A Century of orchestral upheavals".

The concert calendar with a full overview of works, performers, orchestras and event dates is available here.

The list of contributors and acknowledgements is found here.

”Music in a Free state” is a co-operation between:
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, Press Publishing, Bergen Arts College, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Music Information Centre Norway.

The project is supported by:
Centennial Anniversary Norway 2005 Ltd, The Arts Council Norway, The Norwegian Misnistry of Foreign Affairs, The Lindeman Foundation, The Norwegian Society of Composers and the Audio-Visual Fund.

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