Twenty-five-year-old Henning Kraggerud today ranks among Norway’s most prominent young violinists, and he is very much in demand, not only in Norway but internationally. However, he does not accept every invitation without question.
“There are too many poor concerts!” says young Kraggerud, who considers every offer carefully with a particular eye for whether it allows sufficient time to practice the material and study the musical structure. He is less concerned about a dazzling career at any price than about ensuring that every concert stands as a shining jewel in the great concert crown.
Kraggerud is one of a group of young musicians who have emerged from the venerable Barratt-Due Institute of Music in Oslo, where he studied under the institute’s director, Stephan Barratt Due, and Professor Camilla Wicks. He had his first violin lessons at the age of seven and in 1988, at the age of 15, won a national award at the Young People’s String Championship. His official debut proved to be one of the most memorable concerts in Oslo in 1992. Prior to that he had been a soloist with the Bergen Philharmonic and soon afterwards he was a finalist in the EBU competition in Brussels.
In connection with the Grieg 150th anniversary in 1993, Henning Kraggerud played in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Djakarta and Beijing as well as in many European capitals (including Paris and Berlin), and at the Bergen International Music Festival the same year he was presented as one of the main attractions.
Although he is often heard as a soloist playing the great violin concertos, he enthusiastically keeps his viola playing in shape, among other things by playing in the string trio Opus 3, and he always makes time for composing. Kraggerud is a socially-conscious young man with broad general knowledge and deep insights into forms of artistic expression other than music. In other words, he is not easily controlled but is a mature, strong, young musician who knows his own mind. He is deeply involved in chamber music, both as performer and composer, and at the moment he has several commissions waiting.
From 1996, Henning Kraggerud is recording for Naxos and his first CD, Grieg: Violin Sonatas with Helge Kjekshus, was released in 1997 and received spectacular reviews in Gramophone (November) and five stars in the December issue of Classic CD Magazine. After last year’s Bath Festival, the Daily Telegraph enthused: “Here were two performers thoroughly immersed in the music, strong in character, virile, fresh and vibrant.”... and “Kraggerud’s tonal palette is beautifully inflected”. Anyone who has heard him play Bruch’s violin concerto, most recently with the Oslo Philharmonic under Mariss Jansons, can only nod in acknowledgement with a lump in his throat.
1997 also saw Henning Kraggerud’s New York debut at the Weill Hall, again playing with Kjekshus. It is said to be more difficult to get critics to go to concerts in New York than put the toothpaste back in the tube. Kraggerud’s concert was no exception. But there were three New York agents there who were over the moon – perhaps more important than reviews in the longer term.
From New York and Bath, he moved on to the recording studio and Norwegian Favourites for Violin and Orchestra with the Rasumovsky Orchestra under Norwegian conductor Bjarte Engeset in Bratislava, plus recitals with Helge Kjekshus in Berlin with Grieg, Sæverud and Brahms on the programme. Ahead of him lie major challenges such as the Sibelius violin concerto with the Prague Symphony Orchestra and a tour with the Oslo Philharmonic.