Arne Nordheim (b.1931) was one of the most conspicuous figures in the musical landscape of Norway for more than fifty years, and was recognized as a very successful pathfinder. He received a large number of prestigious international prizes and honors, and was the tenant of the honorary residence offered by the State to the nation’s most outstanding creative artist. In 1997 he was elected honorary member of the International Society for Contemporary Music.
Nordheim studied organ and piano, music theory, and composition at the Oslo Conservatory during the years 1948-52. He wrote works in most genres, but his principal instrument was undeniably the orchestra. His early works, such as Evening Land (1957), Canzona (1960), and Epitaffio (1963), were all inspired by the general European search for new sonorities within the traditional body of instruments; though Epitaffio also boasts taped electrophonics. Nordheim was absorbed by the electro-acoustic medium for a period, during which purely electronic works like Solitaire (1968) alternate with others, in which electrophonic sounds are opposed to percussion or other instruments.
In 1972 Nordheim’s Eco for soprano, two choirs, and orchestra was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize. During the last decades of his life he composed works on commission from all over the world: Greening (1973) for the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra; the ballet The Tempest (1979) for the Schwetzinger Festival in Germany; the cello concerto Tenebrae (1980) for Mstislav Rostropovich; Aurora (1983) for Electric Phoenix; and Magma (1988) for the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
In 1994 the music drama Draumkvædet (“The Dream Ballad”) was premiered as a part of the official program of the Lillehammer Olympic Winter Games. Three years later his important Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was premiered by Arve Tellefsen and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the same year a commission for the 1000th anniversary of the city of Trondheim, Nidaros Oratorio, was premiered in the Nidaros Cathedral. Arne Nordheim's latest large-scale work being the trombone concerto Fonos, which was premiered by Marius Hesby and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in 2005.
Arne Nordheim passed away on June 5. 2010.