Arild Remmereit: Modest Conductor

We found him in Vienna - or did he find us? In 1997 we scarcely knew who he was. This season he is conducting two programmes with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. In the crowd outside Mariss Jansons’ dressing room during the OPO’s week of residence in Vienna last autumn, we observed a tall, fair, modest young man who presented himself as Arild Remmereit. So there he was, this young man from north-western Norway.

The orchestra had only just returned from Vienna when Dmitri Kitayenko had to cancel his engagement in Oslo at short notice. Remmereit was free and willing to take over a programme that included such unusual elements as Edvard Hagerup Bull’s Chant d’hommage à Jean Rivier and Skryabin’s Symphony no. 3 – Le divin poème. Prokofiev’s symphonic suite Lieutenant Kijé was replaced for the occasion by Ravel’s La Valse. Taking over at short notice is a baptism of fire for a “new” conductor. There’s no chance of taking it gradually, you just have to jump in at the deep end. Did he manage to jump? Yes, indeed!

“After a début like that he should come back without having to conduct someone else’s programme,” wrote the critics. “This at times brilliant concert certainly left us wanting more.” No-one needed to wait long. Few conductors, from Norway or abroad, have been accepted as quickly by the OPO.

In Vienna, Remmereit has had access to one of the world’s best conducting schools, and he has naturally also studied under the great Nordic conductor-maker Jorma Panula in Helsinki. Long before that, however, he had reached a point where he could live from teaching himself and had wide experience from many areas of music. The former boy soprano first turned to pop and jazz groups, where he played a wide range of instruments. Then he started composing, soon received a commission for an oratorio and a mass, and conducted amateur orchestras and choirs in Norway and abroad.

In 1987 he went to Vienna, where he caught the attention of Zubin Mehta, Myung-Whun Chung and Leonard Bernstein, who invited him to his master classes and used him as his assistant. He became chief conductor of the Wiener Residenz-Orchester, then permanent conductor of the Ukraine National Orchestra and artistic director of the State Opera in Kharkov. He has travelled far and wide with these ensembles and has also taken part in several recordings of symphonic music and jazz.

In the world of music, the modesty of artists often appears to be proportionate to their greatness. The great ones are distinguished by their lifelong, incessant effort to learn more, their all-absorbing interest and regard for the music they are to interpret and their respect for all the people they regard as really great masters. Arild Remmereit appears to have this quality. At thirty-seven he is a young conductor and so far he has certainly not wasted any time.

In an interview in November 1997, he said of the OPO and Mariss Jansons’ five concerts in Vienna: “A lot for me to learn, particularly about the relationship between Mariss Jansons and the orchestra. It is so exemplary that you have to study it to understand how fantastic a conductor-orchestra relationship can be.” Remmereit points to Mariss Jansons as his great ideal, but also refers to others: “When I was studying in Vienna, I was assistant to Leonard Bernstein, a man with incredible energy and joie de vivre. He could sit at the piano and be a real ‘jazz man’ and the music he wrote .... I almost feel like a second generation relation of his. He inspired me to live.”

Translation: Virginia Siger ©
Printed in the music magazine Listen to Norway, Vol.7 - 1999 No. 1
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