One of Norwegian music’s jewels, pianist Håkon Austbø, has lived in Holland since 1974, where he is professor at the Conservatory in Amsterdam. His recordings of Skrjabin and Messiaen have set the standard for interpretations all over the world. Now, Austbø celebrates 40 years as a pianist and returns to Norway to give a jubilee concert in the University Aula today. Simultaneously, SIMAX releases the first volume in a series of five CDs where Austbø plays collected works by Claude Debussy.
The pride is hard to hide when we present Austbø playing Debussy at SIMAX,” Erik Gard Amundsen from SIMAX tells.
“For several years, he has wanted to do a recording of Debussy’s claver music, and I have always thought that Austbø and Debussy would be magical,” Amundsen says.
As early as 1974, Håkon Austbø was characterised by Daily Telegraph as “a performer with an extraordinary talent, and worthy of an international recognition.” Since then, critics from Carnegie Hall in New York to Concertgebouw in Amsterdam have recognised this very special artist.
Austbø himself describes himself as a wonder child, but his family was not particularly interested in the son pursuing an artistic career. Luckily, at the age of 15, he was sent to a legendary piano teacher abroad who immediately told Håkon it was a great shame if he became an engineer. She wrote to his family and told them the same. Eventually, Håkon Austbø realised that this was what he wanted to do.
Winning international recognition
He studied at the Conservatory in Paris and Ecole Normale de Musique. As the first foreigner, he won the competition “Concours National de la Guilde Francaise des Artistes Solistes” in 1970 in Paris. Austbø received even more international attention when a unanimous jury awarded him first prize in the Olivier Messiaen-competition in Royan, France. The Messiaen has since followed him. Austbø’s Messiaen interpretations are among the most respected both in Norway and abroad.
Håkon Austbø furthered his studies at the Juilliard School, New York, at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, Munich, and in London. He was prize winner of the international Munich competition (in piano duo with Marina Horak, 1974), of the Ravel Competition in Paris (1975), and, as a member of Trio du Nord, of the UNESCO International Rostrum, Bratislava (1975).
Solo carreer in Europe, America, and Asia
Presently based in the Netherlands, Mr. Austbø enjoys an extensive solo career throughout Europe, America and Asia, and his recordings for various labels have received international acclaim. In the CD field, he brought out excerpts from Messiaen's Catalogue d'Oiseaux on Fidelio and the 10 Skryabin sonatas on SIMAX. The latter was acclaimed as a reference recording by Gramophone Magazine and received the Norwegian Grammy award in 1990.
Two years later Mr. Austbø received the same award for another SIMAX recording with the Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk, and again in 1995 for Messiaen'sVingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus.
This recording, part of a NAXOS project that will include the complete Messiaen piano music, was also chosen by Classic CD as the best available version of the work. The next item in this project, the complete Catalogue d'Oiseaux coupled with Petites Esquisses d'Oiseaux, was awarded the Edison prize 1998 for the best solo recording. The 8 Préludes and the 4 Etudes de Rythme have also been released. His discography further includes a Schumann recording for Vanguard Classics and the Norse melodrama EddaDa with the actress Juni Dahr.
Mr. Austbø received the prize of the Norwegian music critics in 1989 and was chosen "Performer of the Year" in Norway in 1992.
Translated from Norwegian by Bente Kalsnes