The Ultima Festival is a sure sign of autumn in Oslo. This year’s festival, which bears the motto echoes of an era in reference to the importance of modernism, is the thirteenth in succession. The festival offers some seventy separate events in the course of eleven days of contemporary music and related art forms. Here you will find world class soloists, visiting ensembles, opera, installations, world premieres, and a diversity of performers and composers representing many forms of expression.
Presenting new and unfamiliar music lies at the core of Ultima’s activities. This involves some risk-taking, but Ultima balaces on the cutting edge and has to take chances - this year we take over thirty of them in the form of world premieres.
Christian Eggen is a key figure in Norwegian contemporary music, and Ultima has chosen to honour him this year on his thirtieth anniversary as a performer. Jon Øivind Ness is one of the leading composers of the younger generation; his music will be the subject of a portrait concert. Maja Ratkje is involved in a number of projects including a new opera and a performance event. These three represent something of the essence of the new music scene in Norway, for which Ultima is perhaps the most important arena.
This year Ultima is proud to present the composer Kevin Volans. Now resident in Ireland, Volans grew up in South Africa where his work was inspired by the music of the black population. Volans’ international popularity soared in the 1980s, and his music is today performed all over the world. In the course of seminars and concerts by the Arditti Quartet, the Norwegian Defence Forces Staff Band, the Chamber Soloists of the Oslo Philharmonic and the SISU percussion trio, Ultima hopes to bring Kevin Volans’ music to a wide audience.
In recent festivals Ultima has uncovered hitherto unknown musical artefacts of Norwegian contemporary music. This year the festival presents electroacoustic works from the early 1970s by Knut Wiggen – this will be the first time these works have ever been heard in public in Norway.
New Norwegian opera
Every year Ultima presents a new Norwegian opera production. The festival wishes to contribute to the development of a contemporary opera tradition, and to help ensure that there is a generation of composers and librettists to carry the tradition further when the new opera house is opened in 2008. This year we present an opera by composer Maja Ratkje in collaboration with opera Vest and oslo opera net.
Ultima’s audiences will, as usual, have the opportunity to hear some of the leading international ensembles and performers in interpretations of masterpieces of the 20th and 21st centuries. Truls Mørk will perform solo with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra at the opening concert, and the Japanese pianist Aki Takahashi presents a new work for solo piano. Other international guests include the Arditti Quartet, HK Gruber as soloist and conductor in his work Frankenstein!, the German ensemble Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, and the Swedish group Pärlor för svin – Pearls Before Swine.
Providing our audiences with the best that the contemporary music scene has to offer is a constantly challenging task – Ultima looks forward to welcoming performers, the public, and the press!
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