Strong Norwegian and Nordic presence in Paris

The main focus of Radio France’s music festival Présences 2004 is Pilippe Hersants and his music. However, the audience will also experience a solid Nordic profile. Norway is strongly represented with works by seven different composers such as Arne Nordheim, Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje, Lasse Thoresen, Nils Henrik Asheim, and of course, Edvard Grieg.

Maja Ratkje

René Koering, director of Radio France, organizer of Présences, is stressing the strong Nordic profile, and asserts that Nordic music cannot be reduced to Grieg and Sibelius.

The festival is free and always very popular among the French audience. But an international audience can also enjoy the music as Radio France broadcast the concerts to more than 40 countries. Présences 2004 is taking place in Paris from 30 January till 14 February, and the Nordic profile has been possible because of the co-operation with MAGMA 2004, the Nordic music festival. Both the Danish Radio Orchestra and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (BFO) are scheduled to enter the podium in Paris, in addition to six concerts by French orchestras in this French-Nordic celebration.
”It is unique to have so many orchestra at a contemporary music festival”, says artistic director at Présences, René Bosc enthusiastically.

“The contact between festival director René Bosc and the Norwegian music scene will not only be apparent at this festival, but will also be manifested in future Présences festivals, says Morten Walderhaug, director of Music Information Center (MIC) Norway.

Maja ‘enfant terrible’ Ratkje
Norwegian composers and musicians are complimentary described in the festival’s program. Especially noteworthy is the description of accordionist Frode Haltli as “a fantastic Norwegian instrumentalist, someone to experience in solo and quintet”. Maja Ratkje, winner of Arne Nordheim’s Composer Prize in 2001, is portrayed as “the new Norwegian music’s ‘enfant terrible’ ”, but in a positive way.

Présences has commisioned one work from each of the Nordic countries. Norway’s Nils Henrik Asheim has specially composed Wind Songs for girls’ choir and orchestra. Wind Songs will be premiered on 1 February in Montpellier. The choir parts are sung by Groupe Vocal Opera Junior de Montpellier and The Norwegian Girl Choir. The work will be repeated the day after in Paris. The presence of The Norwegian Girl Choir and BFO is made possible by the financial support of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway.

Nordheim’s control of a instrument’s sound
In addition, Kjell Flem’s Solar Wind will be performed, as well as YR by Lasse Thoresen. Arne Nordheim’s Tenebrae is extensively presented in Présences’ program, and it is noted that Rostropovitch commisioned this concert for cello and orchestra because of Nordheim’s “understanding and control of the instrument’s sound”. Tenebrae will be performed 13 February, along with six movements from Geirr Tveitt’s A Hundred Folk Tunes from Hardanger. The last-mentioned is described as “the Norwegian Bartok”, and will give the audience in the concert hall of Salle Olivier Messiaen yet another surprise.

Bergen based contemporary music ensemble BIT 20 and folk music singer Berit Opheim will perform Lasse Thoresen's piece Lřp, lokk og linjar at the festival. In the program the piece is presented as “the influence of spectre and Tristan Murail on Norwegian cows (!)”, and is compared with a combination of Strawinsky’s Noces and Folksongs by Berio.

Bosc is very pleased by the collaboration with Nordic composer organisations. He gives a special thanks to their presidents, among them Synne Skouen from Norwegian Society of Composers.
“I am grateful for the enthusiasm they have expressed during the planning, and that the Nordic organisations have made it possible to send as many as 320 musicians to Présences”, says Bosc.

Présences’ program is available here. Press interested in the festival can contact Agence Tandem at or Radio France at

The article was first published at our Norwegian music magazine Ballade and translated from Norwegian by Bente Kalsnes.

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