This weekend the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra concluded its year-long highlighting of the contemporary composer Rolf Wallin with a dedicated three-day Wallin festival coinciding with the composer’s fiftieth birthday.
It is a rare thing for a Norwegian contemporary composer to receive this kind of prolonged attention from Norway’s leading orchestra. But Wallin is a composer with all the right properties for such an extensive presentation: at the same time an excellent communicator and an innovative explorer Wallin consistently manages to straddle the line between popular appeal and profound commitment to the seriousness of art and the complexities of composition.
In a chat with Ballade’s Ida Habbestad prior to the finalizing festival the orchestra’s information executive Marit Gaasland related that their choice of Wallin for such extensive focus chiefly had to do with his artistic weight both domestically and internationally. But also to his emphasis on communication and socio-political engagement, something which makes him a very much “alive” and ubiquitous composer. -Wallin has a broad catalogue of music, which means that we are able to present hugely different works and utilize different contexts and perspectives, said Gaasland.
The festival program was co-decided by Wallin himself. It shifted focus from Wallin as an orchestral composer on the opening night -juxtaposing his work "Id" and his concert for clarinet with Berlioz “Symponie Fantastique-” to the premiere of his new multimedia piece the next day. “Strange news” revolves around the issue of child-soldiers and presents Wallin as a contributor to current public and political debates. The final night featured Wallin in a smaller format; chamber work, electronic elements and singularity; aspects of his oeuvre that the Philharmonic Orchetsra wanted to present, and which were taken out of the formal concert house context to Oslo's more laid-back Park Theatre venue.
Wallin himself confessed that he was exited and delighted to have so much of his music performed over three intensive days. He underlined how fruitful his collaboration with the musicians has been throughout and how this is something that really comes to the fore in such an intensive and diverse presentation.
Wallin’s ability to communicate with the audience has been a recurring theme during the festival, and during the season as a whole. Assessing the festival critics are applauding the music’s ability to truly enthuse the audience and speak to people directly in a way quite rare for contemporary composers. It is no doubt part of the reason that Wallin, now fifty, is played all over the world, by some of the leading orchestras; habitually to enthusiastic response.