Centenary season includes major new works by Kaija Saariaho, Steve Reich and Rolf Wallin, and focus on the art of listening
National and civic pride helped launch the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra a century ago. They have been boosted since by its outstanding achievements at home and on the international stage. The Norwegian orchestra, which gave its first performance in September 1919, marks its centenary year in style with a landmark season at home and a major European tour under the direction of Chief Conductor, Vasily Petrenko. The eight-concert tour opens on Sunday 13 October at Cologne’s Philharmonie and unfolds over the following fortnight with visits to, among other leading venues, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (14 October), the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg (15 October), the Vienna Konzerthaus (16 October) and Turin’s Centro Congressi (20 October). It is set to conclude at the Barbican Centre in London on Tuesday 22 October.
The Oslo Philharmonic’s centenary tour programme celebrates the best of Norway’s musical heritage in the form of Arne Nordheim’s Canzona and Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, with Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist. It also embraces Richard Strauss’s tone poem Don Juan, performed at the orchestra’s first subscription concert in 1919, Shostakovich’s Symphony No.10 and Rachmaninov’s Symphony No.2, compositions drawn from the heart of Vasily Petrenko’s repertoire. The A minor Piano Concerto connects directly with the programme of the orchestra’s debut concert and more broadly with Grieg’s role in creating the institution from which the Oslo Philharmonic developed.
“We’re taking the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra’s signature pieces on tour,” comments Vasily Petrenko. “We have one of the most famous contemporary pieces by a Norwegian composer, Nordheim’s Canzona, as well as Grieg’s Piano Concerto, perhaps the best-known work from Norway.” The orchestra, he adds, developed its lasting affinity for the works of Shostakovich and Rachmaninov under the long and distinguished leadership of Mariss Jansons. “I’m very glad to bring a fresh interpretation to this repertoire for the centenary. We’ve played quite a lot of Russian repertoire together over the last six years, and I look forward to exploring these great works on tour. We have also performed and are recording a cycle of the Strauss tone poems, and Don Juan will be part of our next release. It’s very much under the players’ fingers and in their veins! We’re going to perform at some fantastic halls and I expect this to be a great tour.”
Ingrid Røynesdal, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra’s Chief Executive Officer, places the centenary tour within a broad context of local, national and international celebrations. The orchestra, she explains, plans to reach diverse audiences across Oslo with performances given from the back of a specially adapted truck. It will also present an open-air concert in front of the Royal Palace for an audience of 20,000 people, and celebrate Norway’s historic commitment to democracy with a campaign devoted to the art of listening.
The tour, adds Røynesdal, offers the ideal vehicle for the orchestra to deliver its centenary project to major concert halls across Europe. “Being on tour for two weeks allows us to take our message about listening and reaching out to audiences and journalists in six countries. That message will be so important throughout the whole anniversary year. This is a special time for the arts and culture in Oslo, with our centenary starting shortly before the new National Museum, Munch Museum and Public Library open in 2020. It’s exciting for us to be part of such a vibrant cultural scene and, with our centenary tour, to draw attention to that beyond Norway. This is the start of a long investment in the arts in Oslo, which is central to our vision for the orchestra’s future.”