A giant turns 90

One of Norwegian choral music’s icons, composer Knut Nystedt turns 90.

Knut Nystedt, 2004 (fra http://foreninger.uio.no/scholacantorum/)

3 September marks the 90th birthday of celebrated Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt – one of the most important voices on the choral scene for more than half a century.

Commander of The Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav
25 August saw Nystedt being appointed by His Royal Highness King Harald of Norway as Commander of The Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav for his contributions to the Norwegian scene. Writes the Norwegian Choir Association in a press release: “Knut Nystedt has maintained a pivotal role in the development of Norwegian music for choirs. The now 90 year old composer and conductor has throughout the last fifty years been a very central contributor to new, Norwegian choral music. In addition to his own compositional career, Nystedt has also inspired new generations of composers to write original choral works, both on the domestic as well as the international stage. In the US, Germany and Japan, Nystedt’s works maintain a central position in the common choral repertoire.”

Fund for Church Music
In celebration of the central composer’s 85th anniversary, the Knut Nystedt’s Fund for Church Music was initiated in 2000. The Fund’s first allotment will come on Nystedt’s 90th birthday on 3 September. The first recipient of this prestigious award is cantor, conductor, composer and performer Thorbjørn Dyrud who receives the award on the basis of his career that has manifested him as a vital and young church musician, composer, improvisational performer and leader of vibrant choir Ginnungagap.

Knut Nystedt (1915) was born in Oslo and studied composition with Bjarne Brustad and Aaron Copland, organ with Arild Sandvold and Ernest White, and conducting with Øivin Fjeldstad. He was organist at Torshov Church in Oslo 1946-1982 and professor of choral conducting at the University of Oslo 1964-1985. He was conductor of The Norwegian Soloists` Choir from 1950-90, and has toured with them not only the Scandinavian countries, but also Germany, France and three times the United States. A visit to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand in 1978 was followed by concerts in China (1982) and Israel (1984 and 1988).

As a composer, Knut Nystedt has held a central position throughout a long period of rapidly shifting musical currents. With unfailing artistry he has shown a remarkable ability to adapt essential new discoveries to his own, highly personal, style, which is rich in colours and, at the same time, delicately nuanced.

While most of his works, both orchestral and choral, have been premiered in Norway by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra or by his own choir, he is one of the few Norwegian composers of today whose works are performed world-wide. They have also earned him both national and international honours. In 1966 the King of Norway made him knight of the Order of St. Olav in recognition of his contribution of Norwegian music. In 1975 the Augsburg College in Minneapolis awarded him their Distinguished Service Citation for his innovative influence on choral composition in the United States. In 1980 the Norwegian Arts Council gave him their Music Prize. And in 1984, his choral work De Profundis was elected "Best work of the year" - all categories - by the Society of Norwegian Composers. Professor Honorario, Mendoza University Argentina 1991.

Knut Nystedt is still active on the Norwegian and international music scene. He receives a large number of commissions and participates in choral workshops throughout the world. Of later major works could be mentioned: Apocalypsis Joannis : Symphony for Soli, Chorus and Orchestra,op. 155 (1998), commissioned by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Word Became Flesh, Op. 162 (2001) for 13 part choir, a commission for the Augsburg College Choir, and Reach Out For Peace for soprano, choir and orchestra, Op. 164 A (2001) a commission from the Norwegian choir Ceciliaforeningen.

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