Strong Norwegian presence at key UK contemporary music festival

Works by composers Rolf Wallin, Gisle Kverndokk and Lasse Thoresen as well as appearances by the BIT20, Cikada, Nordic Voices and asamisimasa ensembles represent a strong Norwegian profile at the renowned Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Rolf Wallin

A series of seven concerts to mark Norway’s centenary anniversary of its independence from Sweden will take place at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Works by composers Rolf Wallin, Gisle Kverndokk and Lasse Thoresen are to be performed at the renowned festival alongside appearances by the BIT20, Cikada, Nordic Voices and asamisimasa ensembles.

Rolf Wallin will be in residence in Huddersfield; his music will be performed by Bergen-based BIT20 Ensemble, whilst Norway-based Nordic Voices perform a UK premiere of his music for electronics and voices, along with a kaleidoscope of pieces by the young generation of Norwegian composers. A second Wallin UK premiere is presented by Cikada and Frode Haltli, alongside a first performance of music by Eivind Buene, one of the most fascinating young composers in Norway’s thriving new music scene, a world premiere from Jo Kondo and music by a fellow Japanese composer, Toshio Hosokawa.

Lasse Thoresen’s hour-long fusion of folk and classical traditions, Løp, Lokk og Linjer is performed by BIT20 Ensemble and Music by Trond Olav Reinholdtsen, plus new pieces by Chris Dench and Matthew Shlomowitz, are performed by asamisimasa - one of Norway’s most vibrant new music groups.

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf) is the UK’s foremost festival of contemporary music, featuring a programme of more than 50 events over 10 days in November each year, at venues in and around Huddersfield town centre. Under Guest Artistic Director, Tom Service, 2005 sees the 28th festival deliver a rich mix of concerts, solo recitals, music for voice, dance, film, multimedia presentations, electro-acoustic performances and installations.

Artists, composers and performers from around the world choose hcmf to showcase their work; the programme offers numerous UK and world premieres, commissions of new work, a host of performances that can’t be seen anywhere else in the UK and the chance to hear celebrated composers talk about their work prior to its performance by virtuoso musicians.

The 28th Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival runs from 17 - 27 November

Rolf Wallin
Rolf Wallin (born in Oslo september 7th 1957) is an exceptionally versatile musician, having distinguished himself not only as one of Scandinavia's leading composers today, but also as a performance artist and, early in his career, as a trumpeter in ensembles spanning early music to experimental jazz and rock. As a composer he freely combines computer-generated systems and mathematical formulae with intuitive approaches, and the complex yet very plastic textures of his music are reminiscent of composers such as Xenakis and Ligeti. Wallin’s work list includes both instrumental and electroacoustic works, absolute music and stage music; his continuous crossing of borders between genres and styles has resulted in a number of fruitful cross-fertilizations.

In 1987 Wallin received the Norwegian Society of Composers’ "Composition of the Year" award for.. .though what made it has gone for mezzo soprano and piano, a work spun around Osip Mandelstam's modernistic poem Whoever finds a horseshoe. ...though what made it has gone draws upon the vocal works of Luciano Berio as well as upon more harmonically oriented composers like Olivier Messiaen, but it is also a solid testimonial to Wallin’s own, original approach to musical composition - and not least to his ability to combine constructive and intuitive approaches in an aesthetically successful way.

An idea that has proven especially fruitful for Wallin is the use of so-called "fractal" algorithms to generate a musical raw material, which he refines further by means of a continuous dialectic between systematic calculations and his own musical intuition. Among Wallin’s most important fractal-based compositions, we find the works for chamber orchestra Onda di ghiaccio (1989) and Boyl (1995), the orchestral work Chi (1991), and the chamber works Stonewave (1990), ning (1991), and Solve et coagula (1992). Several of these works have received international acclaim and are regularly performed both in Norway and abroad - most notably the percussion work Stonewave, which received the Best Work Award at the 1992 ISCM World Music Days in Warsaw.

In addition to the use of fractal algorithms as an organizing principle for rhythm and melody, Wallin has developed a harmony-generating principle for which he has coined the term "crystal chords". These harmonic crystals are based upon a 3D harmonic model, where three key intervals are constantly repeated, thus defining three dimensions of a crystal. The resulting synthetic scales give Wallin a broad and varied harmonic palette which ranges from "consonant atonality" to sharp dissonances. Wallin has employed crystal chords in a number of recent works: the above- mentioned ning, Solve et coagula and Boyl; the orchestral works Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1996) and Tides (1998); Ground (1997) for chamber orchestra and Appearances (2002) for chamber ensemble.

Wallin’s latest works have consolidated his international reputation, resulting in a number of commissions and performances. In 1998, he received the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize for his Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra. This work is representative of Wallin’s recent, more intuitive approach to composition, something which has also led to works such as Twine for xylophone and marimba (1995). Here, Wallin has given the musicians a high degree of freedom and the sound world is minimal.

In addition to his many orchestral and chamber works, Wallin has composed a large number of mixed media works (e.g. the popular performance works Scratch for balloon and Yo for computer and controller suit), and created electroacoustic music for several of Norway’s foremost contemporary dance groups, choreographers and visual artists. Among his most recent works we also find two music-dramatic works which have received great critical acclaim: the radio opera LautLeben, for the jazz singer Sidsel Endresen and 4-channel tape (1999), and the chamber opera Manifest (2000), based on a selection of early modernistic manifestos. Like ...though what made it has gone, these works experiment freely with language and with the many sonorities of the human voice, alone and in combination with other media.

Despite the many-sidedness of Wallin’s oeuvre, all of his works, whether performances or system-based compositions, are characterized by his fascination with the many different kinds of movement which animate the human body as well as nature.

Lasse Thoresen
Lasse Thoresen (b. 1949) is professor of composition at the Norwegian State Academy of Music. He received a graduate degree in composition in 1972 from the Oslo Music Conservatory, where he studied under Finn Mortensen. After that he studied electrophony and composition under Werner Kaegi at the Institute of Sonology in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Lasse Thoresen has been teaching electrophony, sonology and composition at the Norwegian State Academy of Music since 1975. He and his colleague Olav Anton Thommessen have been instrumental in introducing research on sonology in Norway, and he received an NAVF grant in connection with this in 1978-81.

Lasse Thoresen's earliest compositions reveal the influence of his studies in electrophony. One of his major works from this period, the multimedia composition Skapelser, was written for the Høvikodden Art Centre. Thoresen has been commissioned to write a number of works, several of which have achieved wide recognition, such as The Garden, written for the inauguration of Lille Sal, the chamber-music auditorium of the Oslo Concert Hall, Rettferdighetens Sol (The Sun of Justice), commissioned by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Violin Concerto, commissioned by the Oslo Philharmonic and composed for violinist Stig Nilsson, and Bird of the Heart, written for the Oslo Trio. In 1981 he received the Norwegian Society of Composers' Work of the Year award for Stages of the Inner Dialogue for piano. This was followed by the Critics' Award in 1987 for Qudrat, a work for synthesizer and percussion. He received the Lindeman award for his work as a composer the same year.

Influenced by Norwegian folk music, French spectral music and Harry Partch's tonal system Just Intonation, Lasse Thoresen has been working on microtonality since 1985. Les trois régénérations (1986) - commissioned by Radio France/France Musique - was the first of his works to make use of models derived from folk music. Thus he was the first Norwegian composer to integrate the non-tempered intervals of folk music into art music. The work Thus (1990) was composed for an ensemble that employs Harry Partch's tonal system, while Illuminations (1986) and AbUno (1992) reveal the influence of spectral music. Lasse Thoresen received the Work of the Year award for the latter in 1993.

Lasse Thoresen's poetic titles bear witness to his commitment to the Báha'í Faith. Inspired by the wholy scriptures of the religion he has composed works like Carmel Eulogies (1994) for the 75th anniversary of Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and the large choral work From the Sweet-Scented Streams of Eternity (1995). In 1997 he wrote the symphonic poem Emergence - Luohti boaðe, inspired by Sámi traditional sining "joik", for the Oslo Philharmonic's tour to Athens and Vienna. In 1998 he wrote, on commission from the Warsaw Autumn, the cantata Fire and Light for two folk singers, instrumental ensemble and choir.

He himself claims that it is the religious perspective that has motivated him to express himself through music. In the composer's own words: "Music is not just music...for me the main purpose of music is to express human ideas and emotions. It should not merely be an exposition on the potential of sound, - it should use this potential to express the human condition."

Gisle Kverndokk
Kverndokk, born 3 February 1967, studied composition with Ragnar Søderlind before attending studies at the Norwegian Academy of Music with Olav Anton Thommessen, Lasse Thoresen and Alfred Janson. Kverndokk has also studied with John Corigliano and David Diamond at the Juilliard School in New York.
His orchestral work ‘Selene’ was one of the winners at the 1992 Juilliard Composer’s Competition, and in 1993 his ‘Initiation’ for violin and orchestra secured him the first prize in the competition for composers under the age of 30 at ROSTRUM in Paris. Kverndokk has written two solo concertos, both premiered by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; ‘Concerto for oboe and orchestra’ in 1996 and ‘Concerto for flute and orchestra’ in 1998. His work ‘Peer Gynt Fantasy’ was written for violinist Arve Tellefsen and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra for the Holmenkollen Summer Concert – premiered in 2000. During the 1999-2000 season, Kverndokk served as composer of the year with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. February 2003 saw the premiere of his concerto for violin, piano and orchestra, ‘The Crystal Cabinet’, performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kverndokk’s first opera, ‘Falketårnet’, saw its premiere in 1990, performed by vocalists and musicians from the Norwegian Academy of Music. His children’s opera ‘Georg’s Marvellous Medicine’ was commissioned by the Kristiansund Opera and premiered there in 1995. The opera won the Norwegian Society of Composers award for Work of the Year in 1995 and it has subsequently been performed by the Norwegian National Opera, Opera West in Bergen, The Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany. The work has also been produced in a radio version that featured the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

Kverndokk has composed several musicals with librettist Øystein Wiik. Their first collaboration was the ‘Sophie’s World’ musical that saw its premiere during the 1998 Ettlingen Castle Festival. The Norwegian premiere of the musical took place the following year at a major customised hangar/theatre facility located at the former Oslo airport Fornebu. 2001 saw the premiere of the musical ‘Vincent van Gogh’ at the Ettlingen Castle Festival, and in 2002 his musical ‘Farlige Forbindelser/Gefährliche Liebschaften’ (‘Dangerous Connections’) was premiered at the Theater Pforzheim in Germany. Autumn 2003 saw the premiere of the Kverndokk/Wiik musical ‘Frendelaus’ at the Norwegian Theatre in Oslo.

With librettist Ivar Tindberg, Kverndokk has written the radio-opera ‘Bokken Lasson – stumbling success’ for the national radio channel NRK P2. The work earned him the first prize at the 2000 Prix Italia in Bologna. Their opera based on Norwegian writer Johan Falkberget’s novel ‘Den Fjerde Nattevakt’ will see its premiere at the Norwegian National Opera in November 2005. The work will also be presented at the Røros Winter Festival in 2005, a festival that features Kverndokk as composer in residence. Kverndokk has also received a commission for a new opera that is to be premiered in the first season of the new national opera house now under construction in Oslo.

2005 will see Kverndokk’s debut as a movie score composer with his contribution to the Danish feature film ‘Kinamand’, directed by Henrik Ruben Genz.

Kverndokk masters the flute and piano and is an active theatre and orchestra musician. He has served stints as musical director and conductor for a number of music theatre productions in Norway, Germany and Canada.

Kverndokk has been awarded the Anders Jahre’s cultural prize for young artists, a grant from the Wilhelm Hansen Family’s legacy in 1997 as well as the Lili Boulanger’s Memorial Fund at the Boston University in 1999.

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