Bertil Palmar Johansen - Biography

Bertil Palmar Johansen

Bertil Palmar Johansen (1954) was born in Brattvåg, on the west coast of Norway. He studied violin at the Troendelag Conservatory of Music in Trondheim and composition under Per Hjort Albertsen, Holger Prytz and Olav Anton Thommessen. He has composed for a broad range of instrumental and vocal settings. Several of these works are commissioned works from both Norwegian as well as international ensembles and soloists.

Palmar Johansen lives in Trondheim and has composed several large works for the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. Among these is Tiden Bygger Byen (Time Builds the City), a ballet in two acts with choreography by Anne Grete Eriksen and Leif Hernes. The ballet was commissioned for the 1000 year anniversary of the founding of the city of Trondheim in 1997. It was nominated for the EDVARD prize. Among the other commissioned works completed for the 1000 year anniversary are the oratorio De Varme Vinder (The Warm Winds) which was performed in the Nidaros Cathedral with orchestra, choir and soloists made up of 250 young musicians.

An important context of Bertil Palmar Johansen’s compositions is his background for many years as a teacher of composition and arrangement at the Troendelag Conservatory of Music at NTNU, as violin pedagogue at the Trondheim Municipal Culture School and as a conductor. These positions have also been the inspiration for a series of composions for children and youths, everything from small solo pieces to complete operas. He has been active in various organizations. He was for many years a member of the Board of Directors for Nordlyd (Trondheim Contemporary Music Festival) and the Trondheim division of Ny Musikk (Norway’s centre for new music and sound art).

Many of his compositions are available on CD. The TrondheimSoloists recorded his Concerto for Two Violins and Strings (Elise Båtnes and Henninge Båtnes) in 1991 under the leadership of Bjarne Fiskum. A portrait CD with Cikada (Strings) was released in 1999, and with the JuniorSoloists in 2000 (on a Spring String). In 2004 the CD Bertil Palmar Johansen was released. In 2007 AS Røverkjøp (It’s a Steal, Inc.) came out recorded by The Norwegian Air Force Band, with a text by Fredrik Skagen.

The opera Pappapermisjon (Paternity Leave) had its premier during the Vinterfestspillene i Bergstaden (The Winter Chamber Music festival in Røros) March 2013, with a libretto by Vilhelm Topsøe. This production was a collaboration between the Vinterfestspillene and the Dept. of Music at the NTNU. Pappapermisjon was also performed in Trondheim in April/May 2013 as well as being set up in 2014 at the Opera Festival Week in Kristiansund.

Den Unge Pilgrim (The Young Pilgrim) was commissioned for St. Olav Festival’s opening concert on the occasion of the festival’s 50 year anniversary in 2012. The libretto was written by Terje Nordby. The soloists Eir Inderhaug, Marianne Beate Kielland and Mads Wighus represented respectively Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The work is for 3 soloists, choir, dance and orchestra. The artistic director for this project was Kjell Seim and the choreography was by Christopher Arouni. The lighting design was by Pekka Stokke and set design by Rami Abu Al-Hayja.

Drømmen og Ilden (The Dream and the Fire) had its premier during the Trondheim Kammermusikkfestival (Trondheim Chamber Music Festival) in 2010. This is a large scenic work with the theme of Africa. The composer based this composition on his experiences and work from the comprehensive collaboration between the Norsk Kulturskoleråd (Norwegian Culture School Council) and countries in the southern Africa. The work was produced by the Trondheim Kulturskole (Trondheim Culture School) and the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival and was first performed in Olavshallen.

In February 2010 the opera Med Kniven på Strupen (With a Knife at your Throat) had its premier performance at the Opera Festival Week in Kristiansund. The libretto was written by Vigdis Hjorth. This work also had a guest performance at Den Norske Opera (The Norwegian Opera) in the spring season 2011, under the direction of Ronald Rørvik and with Kjell Seim as musical leader.

In 2007, The Bells was composed for the 800 year anniversary of Vår Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady,Trondheim). The work was written for Nidarosdomens Jentekor (Nidaros Cathedral’s girl choir) and electronics.

Of the more recent large works, one should mention Madonna Furiosa which had its premier in the Nidaros Cathedral during St. Olav Festival 2005. This work was also performed later in the same year in Sweden (Gotland) in a concert version. In late 2006, the work was performed in Iceland and Greenland in a new version, developed in cooperation with artists from Iceland. The libretto was written by Tale Næss.

From 2004 to 2006, Palmar Johansen was “composer in residence” for the Kristiansand Wind Ensemble. He completed his period there with the opera Dustefjerten which was a collaboration between the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra and Opera Sør. The libretto was by Rune Belsvik, the author of a series of children books about the character Dustefjert. Also during this period, Odins Øye (Odin’s Eye) and a Tuba Concerto (dedicated to Øystein Baadsvik) had their premiers.

In 2000, his opera HjerterDame til Ringve (The Queen of Hearts at Ringve) premiered as part of the Arts Council Norway’s celebration of the new millennium. The libretto was by Cecilie Løveid and the main role of Victoria Bachke was performed by the mezzo soprano Randi Stene.

In 2002 Palmar Johansen was awarded the EDVARD- prize for the work Tors Hammer (Thor’s Hammer). This is a symphonic journey into Norse mythology for orchestra, choir and soloists. The project was a collaboration between a professional orchestra and a culture school.

AS Røverkjøp is a melodrama for wind ensemble and actor. It is a child and family friendly “radio theatre” performed in a concert hall, with text by the crime novel author Fredrik Skagen. Minken Fossheim and Øyvind Brandtzæg are among those actors who have given life to this exciting adventure.

Palmar Johansen has, in addition to the above works also composed music to accompany permanent exhibitions, for example the Museum of Science’s Medieval exhibition and the exhibition of the Norwegian Crown Jewels on display in the Archbishop’s complex in Trondheim.

Bertil Palmar Johansen has approximately 120 works on his opus list.

Translation: David Levine

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