Johan Kvandal (1919-1999) counts without doubt among Norway's most frequently performed composers. His music is annually present on the repertory of the large orchestras. He graduated as an organist and conductor from the Music Conservatory in Oslo. In addition he studied composition with Per Steenberg, Arild Sandvold and Geirr Tveitt. He continued his composition studies with Joseph Marx in Vienna, and Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
In the early works of Kvandal, like Five Small Piano Pieces, Op. 1 and Seven Songs, Op. 4 the influence from the then-prevailing national movement in the 1920s and 1930s is evident. His early works also reveal an urge to combine Norwegian folk music elements with classical forms, e.g. Sonatina for Piano, Op. 2 and Norwegian Ouverture, Op. 7.
His stay in Paris in 1952-54 served as an important stimulus to his further work. Through his studies with Nadia Boulanger and exposure to an extremely rich musical environment he became very familiar with the works of Bartok and the later works of Stravinsky and Messiaen. This resulted in far more compositional freedom, which in due course led to a tone language based on what Kvandal himself called modern tonality.
Kvandal's compositions consist of almost all kinds of ensembles from solo instruments to large orchestra. A main work is the opera Mysteries, Op. 75, based on the novel by Knut Hamsun. His main orchestral works so far are Antagonia for two string orchestras and percussion, Op. 38 (1973), Violin Concerto, Op. 52 (1979), Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra, Op. 77 (1994) and Piano Concerto, Op. 85 (1998). In addition can be mentioned the Symphony No. 1, Op. 18 (1959), Symphonic Epos, Op. 21 (1962), Triptychon, Op. 53 (1979) and the concertos for flute, oboe and organ.
Kvandal has a large production of works for solo voice and chorus. Of the larger vocal works one can mention the Ibsen Cantata, Op. 51, the coloratura aria Michelangelo Poem, Op. 49 and the three-part choral work The Miracle, op. 69. His large amount of church- and chamber music is Norwegian standard repertory.
In addition to his work as a composer Kvandal was organist in Vålerengen Church in Oslo during the years 1959-74. For many years he was the main critic in Norway's largest newspaper, Aftenposten. He held a large number of positions in the musical life of Norway, and was a central person planning the historical record series of the Norwegian Cultural Council.