Norwegian acts generate strong UK press coverage

A string of profiles, reviews and articles make for a solid Norwegian influx in UK media.

Silje Nergaard 2003

A new Jan Garbarek album, strong Norwegian presence at the London Jazz Festival and a string of excellent classical releases has generated strong UK press coverage this October and November. Major dailies such as The Telegraph, The Independent, Guardian as well as BBC have published long interviews, profiles and reviews of some of Norwegian jazz, electronica and classical music’s most central performers.

The Telegraph on Garbarek

The Telegraph’s Peter Culshaw met up with Norwegian sax icon Jan Garbarek earlier this month to talk about his latest album ‘In Praise of Dreams’. In the interview Garbarek, who played a highly successful concert at the London Jazz Festival last week, talks on his inspirational sources that range from Coltrane to Ravi Shankar, his studio collaboration with US violist Kim Kashashian (whom he calls a “very powerful new agent in my music-making”) as well as the frequently used association of his music the fjords and mountains of Norway (“…I did spend childhood summer in the mountains, but did that really affect how I play?”). Garbarek also sheds light on the motivation for touring (something he doesn’t particularly enjoy to do): “There are all kinds of problems, but then there is the quietness before the concert, that’s when I remember how lucky I am – it’s always the most wonderful moment, going on stage.”

Currently, Jan Garbarek is touring the UK. Click here to view all concert dates.

Read the entire interview here (login required).

The Independent meets Silje Nergaard

Another performer that left the London Jazz Festival audience in awe was vocalist Silje Nergaard who was interviewed by The Independent’s Sholto Byrnes in mid-November. States the journalist on the prospects of her career: “… there are other voices out there, deserving of the plaudits and the poster campaigns, who do make the case for enlarging still further the choral ranks. And Silje Nergaard is most definitely one of them. She stands out not only on the strength of her voice, but also in her songwriting. Structurally, her compositions are influenced by an early love of singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, but their realisation and harmony come from jazz. It is the happiest of meetings.” In the quite long and thorough interview Nergaard talks on her background, her breakthrough at a Molde Jazz Festival jam with Jaco Pastorius, collaborations with Pat Metheny and future plans. Says Nergaard on her form of expression: “Music sums up everything, what I listen to the life I live, the life I live, the people I meet. Music is the way I express being alive. And it comes out like this.”

Silje Nergaard’s latest release is the album ‘Nightwatch’, released last year on Emarcy/Universal.

Read the entire interview here.

Birth of the ice cool

“They’re fashionable, they’re challenging and they’re everywhere. They’re also brilliant. Perhaps that’s why the London Jazz Festival is hip-deep in frosty Nordics” says The Independent’s Phil Johnson as he presents his Good Norwegian Guide. In a long and in-depth article Johnson gives a situation report on the state of current Norwegian music (“It’s deep, but it’s often easy on the ear too. And it’s so damn clever.”) an presents profiles on a string of central acts and performers; Jan Garbarek, Kim Hiorthøy, Arve Henriksen, Silje Nergaard, Jaga Jazzist and Susanna & The Magical Orchestra.

Says Johnson in his run-down of Norwegian music: “So let's get the cliches out of the way now, shall we? Norwegian music is, variously, glacial, frozen, visionary, mythic, riven with stylistic crevasses and fjords, and filled with nostalgia for the pitter-patter of reindeer hooves or the grim fortitude of shamanic Sami Laplanders. Jan Garbarek's soprano sax sound is a keening corncrake wail, a voice crying in the tundra wilderness, Munch's The Scream meets late John Coltrane in the chamber-jazz ante-room of the angst-ridden Nordic soul.

And what's so great is that most of these cliches are true. There is a spirit of place to Norwegian music, just as there is an "idea of the North", as identified by the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (who made a celebrated radio programme about it) and the Danish artist Asger Jorn, who called the North "the dream centre" of Europe. While we might regard generalisations about "spirit of place" as fanciful or overly deterministic, perhaps we shouldn't. For at some deep structural level, however mediated, what is art but a reflection of latitude and longitude, of historical climate and emotional weather? And what is music, but, in the poet Rilke's phrase, "audible landscape"?

It's also true that there's an almost limitless sense of space to much contemporary Norwegian music; a willingness to explore and to prolong the acoustic moment, to reach out beyond the norms of song-form and metrical structure in search of, well, the sublime.”

Read the entire article here.

Uncut & Øya

This year’s Øya Festival in Oslo attracted a substantial delegation of international journalists. In its October issue, Uncut magazine ran an article by Chris Roberts on their visit to the August festival. “If only British festivals were this…nice. The Norwegians do it clean” is Roberts’ conclusion to an article that is generally positive. Roberts highlights the festival’s setting, the weather, the acts and the general positive vibe: “You’d have to be very curmudgeonly not to enjoy yourself at Øya, this year extended to three days (and compulsory late nights) and attracting around nine thousand near-naked perfect physical specimens in Norway’s hottest week of 2004.” Festival highlights according to Roberts were Madrugada front-man Sivert Høyem’s solo set, (Madrugada side-project) My Midnight Creeps, Gluecifer, We and The National Bank. Concludes Roberts: “…the broad church that is Øya remains an unqualified success.”

Strong classical & jazz reviews

A number of releases featuring Norwegian performers have also been given very positive reviews over the last two months.

The Observer’s Anthony Holden gives Leif Ove Andsnes (piano) & the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra’s ‘Mozart – Piano Concertos Nos 9 & 18’ a warm welcome: “The pickiest Mozartians will appreciate his energy and lyricism…”

Read the review here.

Roz Caveney, also of the Observer, has chosen another Andsnes release for yet another positive review. On the Bostridge/Andsnes release ‘Schubert:Winterreise’ Caveney says that the two have “neurotic brilliance”.

Read the review here.

Says Guardian’s Edward Greenfield on Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud’s ‘Sibelius: Violin Concerto; Serenade in g minor; Sinding: Violin Concerto; Romance in D’: “Henning Kraggerud's powerful areading of the Sibelius violin concerto - less reflective than some, but full of panache - comes here with an unusual and attractive partner: another Scandinavian violin concerto, the first of the three written by Norway's Christian Sinding. Though he is latterly remembered only for his piano miniature, Rustle of Spring, Sinding was happy writing in bigger forms. And while the opening theme is a bare-faced crib from the finale of the Brahms violin concerto, Sinding's individual voice is quickly established in the first movement, leading to a dark, intense slow movement and dance-like finale. The shorter pieces nicely point the contrast of character between the two composers. A full, vivid sound.”

The Telegraph’s Geoffrey Norris has also reviewed Kraggerud’s Sibelius/Sinding release: “Henning Kraggerud, in his early thirties, is one of the brightest young stars in the violin firmament, and his recording of concertos by Sibelius and Sinding attests to his mature artistry, His interpretation of the Sibelius, echoed by Bjarte Engset’s conducting of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, is a full-bodied Romantic one. As a team, they powerfully act out the musical dramas of the two outer movements, with Kraggerud’s rich and pliable violin timber as the chief protagonist, within a context of bold orchestral colours. This is not the chilly landscape that some performers evoke, but it is one that has consistency of thought, suggesting vastness of expanse and awe-inspiring strength of musical ideas. Kraggerud is as compelling in the mellow lyricism of the slow movement as he is in the taxing virtuosity elsewhere. The finale has a thrilling drive. The main companion piece here is the Violin Conceto No 1 by Christian Sinding, a fellow Norwegian countryman of Kraggerud’s who is best known for the once popular piano miniature Rustle of Spring. The concerto starts with a theme hinting that Sinding must have heard the finale of the concerto by Brahms, but it is a good, muscular piece that fully merits resurrection in a performance as fine as this one is.”

Read the Guardian review here.

Saxophonist and composer Trygve Seim’s latest ECM release ‘Sangam’ gets a positive review by The Guardian’s John Fordham: “Eerily hymnal contemporary jazz from a unique ensemble long overdue for a trip here.”

Read the review here.

Guitarist and Jazzland recording artist Eivind Aarset’s latest album ‘Connected’ is thoroughly profiled by BBC’s Chris Jones. Says Jones on Aarset’s recent outing: “…the guitarist transcends any preconceptions that the instrument comes burdened with, and has given us a work that soothes, upsets and excites in equal proportions. Yet again, it seems as though Jazzland is living up to its boast of giving us a new conception in jazz. Matched only by Rune Grammofon's stable of Norwegian young guns, Aarset, along with labelmates Sidsel Endreson, Wesseltoft and Audun Kleive is making sure that all eyes (and ears) remain firmly fixed on the north. Essential.”

Read the entire BBC piece here.

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