Terje Rypdal premier in Linz

The international recognised Norwegian jazz guitarist and composer Terje Rypdal’s new work Melodic Warrior premiers in Linz on Thursday. The Hilliard Ensemble and conductor Dennis Russel Davies will perform the piece with the Bruckner Orchester Linz and Rypdal on electric guitar. The composer is feeling the nerves before the premier, he told us.

Terje Rypdal live

“I have not done anything as exciting before. I am more anxious than I should be”, says Terje Rypdal. He is already in Linz, Austria, and has inspected the percussion before the concert on Thursday.
“They are very detailed about everything here”, he says laughinly.

Rypdal is known as one of the leading modern jazz guitarists in Europe. At the same time he is regarded to be an outstanding composer of contemporary art music. Rypdal has a multifarious musical career since he started his pop band The Vanguards in the 1960'ies. He later started up Dream where his interest for jazz was awakened. In 1969 he joined the Jan Garbarek Quartet. At the same time he even played in George Russell's Sextet and big band. As a composer Rypdal received his first impulses from Ligeti, Penderecki, and Mahler, but he soon developed his own style. He has composed five symphonies, several works for solo instruments with orchestra, two operas and a large number of contemporary works with participation of jazz musicians.

Melodic Warrior Rypdal
The Melodic Warrior is commissioned by The Hilliard Ensemble, and throughout the 41 minutes long piece, The Hilliard Ensemble will sing lyrics from American Indian poetry. Rypdal got inspired by a book of Indian poetry.

“I found so many beautiful sentences, and they fit into themes I have been working on. I am also using them because I now dare to write melodies and harmonies that are not considered as “high art”. The title, Melodic Warrior, is a message to the music scene to wake up, we can’t just write tight cords all the time. I am trying to create more acceptances for new music, and people within the jazz environment are much more accepting than those within contemporary music. For example, the Ultima Festival (Oslo Contemporary Music Festival) would probably not accept a piece like the Melodic Warrior”, says Rypdal.

Rypdal was also inspired by an appeal given by the Hopi Indians at the United Nations.

“I am not an expert on this, but the connections Indians and other indigenous groups have to nature, is something I connect with. For me, the Indian poems represent a tribute to nature”, says Rypdal, who is basically living in the middle of nature himself. He is situated where his grandfather was born, in Tresfjord, a tiny community by the end of a fjord on the West Coast of Norway.

Long awaited collaboration
But quite often, he returns to the rest of the world to give concerts. Rypdal is proud of the co-operation with the Hilliard Ensemble, Manfred Eicher, and the Bruckner Orchester Linz.
“Eicher (Founder and President of ECM Records) is one of the most important persons within the record industry in Europe, even the whole world. He built up different jazz catalogues, among them an European improvised jazz catalogue, which has been important for me. He also made Arvo Pärt famous, who has been an inspiration to me, even though he is much more religious than I am. I have talked for a long time to do something with The Hilliard Ensamble, but after Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard’s successful collaboration, it seemed a bit opportune to connect with them shortly after Garbarek. But now, the time felt right”.

Rypdal was given free hands for his commission by The Hilliard Ensemble. He has listened to earlier work they have done, but as he says “I have been doing this for so long, it is hard to change the way I am working now”. When Rypdal is composing larger works, he creates smaller parts for himself, not directly relating to jazz.
“They are sort of a places of refuge for me”, says the guitarist and composer.

Further ahead, Rypdal and the Hilliard are discussing whether to release the musical collaboration on ECM, and Rypdal recently finished up a violin piece for violinist Elise Båtnes.

Along with Rypdal's work, there will be performances of Beethoven's 6th Symphony and a choral work by Otto Nicolai in Linz, Thursday 18 December.

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