Duo Concertante premiere in New York

Sunday is Norway’s day at the Lincoln Centre in New York. But not only Grieg will be performed. Johan Kvandal will also be celebrated.

– If I could only escape this flight. I dread it so terribly!

The composer looks anguished by the thought of the upcoming journey to the US. It will be the third flight in his 74 years life. The first time was when he participated in a Nordic composers congress in Iceland, together with Klaus Egge and Knut Nystedt.

– I remember I was beside myself with horror, he remembers. When the party came to the hotel and was taking the lift, Kvandal refused to join them. He sets the limit by the elevator door. So when visiting some people in a skyscraper, he took to the stairs. And his feet carried him all the way to the 21st floor.

Delighted duo

That happened in New York when his Duo Concertante was performed.

– It actually became a success, he smiles, almost apologetically.

The well-known duo pianists Bradshaw og Buono procured the premiere. They were so excited by Kvandal’s work that they commissioned a new opus from him on the spot, this time a concerto for two pianos and orchestra. This work will be presented for the first time in the Norwegian concert in Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on 7 November. The soloists perform in concert with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s conducted by Per Brevig, which also conducts Grieg’s Norwegian Dances and Jorsalfar music.

Music wholesaler

Kvandal was very happy about the the Bergen Philharmonic‘s fresh performance of his Sinfonia concertante in Grieg Hall on Thursday. The composer has been busy being present at all the recent performances. And his music for the flute was performed Sunday by musicians from the Conservatory in Oslo at the Munch Museum. Kvandal‘s music is increasingly performed orchestral work Antagonia five times in Sweden and Norway in just a few months. The Guitar Sonata is selected as a mandatory piece in a worldwide guitar contest. His Oboe Concerto is listed six times in December by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra on tour.

Something happens, it is not dead, says an encouraged composer, happy that his works are used and that there are constant inquiries to write new works.

Absorbed in Hamsun`s magic world

Only a few months ahead is the first performance of the Hamsunopera ‘Mysteries’ at the Norwegian National Opera. This is by far Kvandal‘s most voluminous opus to date, with a score of 900 pages. The stage performance is orchestrated by Barthold Halle, who has also added text to facilitate compositional treatment.

I had Hamsun fever when I was 18, 19 years old and was absorbed in his magic world. I once had the opportunity to meet the aging poet when he was visiting the home of his son Tore. But I did not dare to meet such a famous man. Since then, and especially after I began creating music to ‘Mysteries’, I regretted that I didn’t dare meeting the master. He has given me good material to work with.

Johan Kvandal is excited about the cast. Arild Helleland is Minutten. Anne Bolstad and Ragnhild Heiland Sørensen are alternating in the role as Dagny Kielland, Jens Olai Justvik and Trond Hallstein Moe are alternating as Nagel. Frøydis Klaus Berger sings the role as Martha Gude. There are also smaller roles: Chief inspector, hotel maid Sarah, Miss Amundsen. The choir is important as a narrative and commentary voice. And conductor Kjell Ingebretsen handles the score.

A Norwegian world premiere is not everyday in the Norwegian Opera. This is an event. Especially exciting for the composer, who has worked on this project for many years. But first, Johan Kvandal has to get through another purgatory. In an aircraft.

I have dreaded for weeks to go America. It is hopeless. I will take some strong soothing pills. Without them, I wont get through the horror, says the composer.  


by Reidar Storaas, Bergens Tidende, 11 March 1993