Olav Berg - Biography

Olav Berg

"The listener should listen with an open mind and let himself be guided by his own imagination. Only in this way will he avoid becoming passive, and instead actively contribute to the musical experience." With these words as his musical credo, Olav Berg must be said to be successful in bringing his message across; as a representative of a more moderate school of composition, his music is highly regarded by his audiences.

Olav Berg was born in Kvelde in Norway on September 25, 1949. He studied music theory in Norway with Antonio Bibalo and in London with Lennox Berkeley. From 1973-78 he played trumpet in the Navy orchestra in Horten. Since 1978 he has composed full time, except for one year during which he taught music theory at the Music Conservatory in Stavanger.

His work Poseidon (1982) for orchestra is probably the composer's most frequently performed piece. It was premiered by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1983 and the following year represented Norway at the international Rostrum for composers in Paris. Poseidon demonstrates the composer's confident treatment of the orchestral medium.

The Clarinet Concerto (1986) is in three sections. In the first, slow section the solo clarinettist plays virtuoso cadenzas interrupted at intervals by the orchestra; the lively clarinet part is given added impetus by orchestral accents in the middle section, and finally a long, solo cadenza brings the work to its conclusion in an atmosphere of almost transcendental calm.

Four Poems (1993) reveal an interesting change in Berg's style. The neo-romantic, expressionist style from the 80'ies is succeeded by a rigorously distilled form of expression. Instead of using the diachronic narrative expression of the novel, he investigates the potent and multivocal forces harnessed in concentrated verse form: with the movement of the focus from the narrative to the atmospheric, or in more overtly musical terms from the melodic and thematic to the purely sonic.

Being a wind player himself, music for wind instruments features prominently in Olav Berg's output: he has written two trumpet concertos, a bassoon concerto, a clarinet concerto and several solo and chamber works for various wind ensembles. His knowledge of these instruments combined with his lyrical, virtuoso style of composition has led to a number of
commissions from Norway's leading wind players, such as the solo piece Vertigo (1992), the Sonatina for Bassoon and Piano (1995), the Clarinet Concerto and Fantasia breve for clarinet and piano (1983) and the Clarinet Quintet.

NMIC 2002
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