Signs of a Nordic alchemy

Like an alchemic manuscript unearthed from the concealed subterranean passage of an outlying Dutch monastery. So says Nicholas D. Møllerhaug, MIC/Ballade’s own Magma 2002 reporter of his initial pre-impression of the Berlin festival. Come Saturday, this alchemy will transform into reality as the Magma 2002 festival is officially opened by the Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon.

Magma 2002 - fire

Such a wealth of Nordic composers and performers has never before congregated in Berlin. It’s as if the Nordic has been lifted or moved to Berlin for a week. This is an event that’s set to leave a significant impact in its wake.

Expectations are high among Berliners and out-of-town visitors to Magma 2002. One of the reasons for these expectations is the varied programme. The audience has opportunity to be treated to everything from intense Nordic noise courtesy of Lasse Marhaug to the classical performances of Dane Per Nørgård. Bigger ensembles such as the Oslo and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras present large format concerts in the Grand Hall of the legendary Berliner Philharmonie. Cikada, Scharoun, Kromata and Kaput are among the visiting ensembles. The Magma 2002 audience has a lot to look forward to.

In addition to all of the large format concerts there’s plenty of smaller scale activity. To exemplify, one could mention the choir and organ concerts taking place at one of Berlin’s most introvert symbolic locations; Kaiser Friedrich Gedächtniskirche. Nordic experimental music is given ample room for expression on the festival’s late evenings, with performers such as Sidsel Endresen and POING exploring boundaries.

The driving forces behind the festival’s programme have made a tremendous effort. In particular, Gunda Djupvik of the Norwegian Society of Composers and artistic leader Rolf Gupta together with their staff deserve kudos. Hilde Holbæk-Hanssen and Hallgjerd Aksnes have also done a great job writing, co-ordinating and producing of the festival’s programme. The programme in itself makes for good cold-autumn-evening reading, and the same goes for the festival’s web pages. Those who can’t visit Berlin during these days really have something to enthuse over.

Historically, Berlin is a city with significant northbound roots. The idea of arranging the Nordic Music Days in Berlin is therefore not based on contemporary trendy hype. Berlin was not chosen as the Magma location this year solely because “everybody’s” here. It’s a factor that has contributed to the moving of the festival, but it’s not the governing reason. Actually, we were here before “everybody”; at least we were here the last time “everybody” were here – in the pre-Hitler years.

If you take a look back in time one will find many Nordic composers based out of Berlin. This year’s major Norwegian jubilant, Fartein Valen counted among one of these Berlin-based composers. The contact between Berlin and the Nordic countries have had a profound impact on the latter. It seems like Berlin is in for an answer consisting of a solid dose of transformation. will monitor this transformation – or should we say alchemy?

Nicholas D. Møllerhaug will return with a new report on Monday 25th of November.

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