This summer, Founding Director Leif Ove Andsnes presents the third annual Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, August 9 to 12. Exploring music composed “In the Shadow of War (1914–18),” the 2018 season comprises twelve concerts, an exhibition, lectures, and pre-concert talks in the idyllic Norwegian village of Rosendal, where the celebrated pianist will be joined on stage by a stellar roster of guest artists: soprano Anna Prohaska; baritone Matthias Goerne; flautist Guy Eshed; clarinetist Fabio Di Càsola; violinists Johan Dalene, Henning Kraggerud, and Akiko Suwanai; violist Lars Anders Tomter; cellist Edgar Moreau; double bassist Tim Gibbs; harpist Sivan Magen; the Dover Quartet; and pianists Ingrid Andsnes, Bertrand Chamayou, Kirill Gerstein and Eric Schneider.
Set in a green valley beneath dramatic mountains, Rosendal may be reached by boat from Norway’s Bergen airport. The Baroniet Rosendal Manor House and Gardens, dated from 1665, offering visitors a glimpse of Norwegian history in one of the country’s most spectacular natural settings. As The Arts Desk (UK) put it, “It is a utopian place for utopian musicians.” France’s Diapason magazine adds: “Leif Ove Andsnes has found a winning formula. … In addition to the intelligence of its programming and the high level of its performers, the festival benefits from what is often lacking in the most exclusive of locations: authenticity and atmosphere – truly magical.”
Looking forward to the 2018 season, Andsnes explains: “The early 20th century was one of the most extraordinary periods in music with an enormous variety of new musical styles which burst onto the scene. Over four days the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival will focus on the years 1914–18, exploring a poignant and diverse legacy of music that was written by composers either in reaction to or in spite of the war that raged around them.”
The instrumental lineup includes Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale Suite, which premiered in the last months of World War I, and Ravel’s La Valse, widely seen as a metaphor for the predicament of European civilization in the aftermath of war. Other works include Janáček’s expressionistic Violin Sonata, the final movement of which recreates the sound of bombs; Vaughan Williams’s hauntingly beautiful Lark Ascending; Ravel’s neo-classical Le tombeau de Couperin, dedicated to the memory of friends who died in combat; and the pure folksong settings of Armenian composer Komitas, who was arrested and deported to a prison camp by the Ottoman government in 1915. A complete program is dedicated to the music of Debussy, who died in Paris during the 1918 Spring Offensive, his funeral procession making its way through deserted streets as German guns bombarded the city. Other composers represented include Bartók, Lili Boulanger, Elgar, Scriabin, Webern, Zemlinsky, and Sibelius, whose solo piano pieces The Birch and The Spruce will be reprised by Andsnes at the festival’s closing concert.
Rosendal also welcomes two singers whose programs address similar themes through works spanning a wider period. Soprano Anna Prohaska performs “Behind the Lines,” a personally curated and moving collection of songs set to wartime poetry by composers including Eisler, Quilter, Weill and Ives. Baritone Matthias Goerne returns to Rosendal to join Andsnes for an account of Schubert’s Winterreise, a song cycle epitomizing isolation and loneliness by the composer who was the focus of the inaugural 2016 festival.
A two-part exhibition curated by distinguished Norwegian art historian Gunnar Danbolt will accompany the festival. This will examine paintings created in response to World War I and the work of Trondheim’s Håkon Bleken, who was one of the first artists to confront the 2011 massacre on the Norwegian island of Utøya in his work. Featured artworks include copies of Per Krohg’s The Grenade (1916) and Otto Dix’s The War (1932), one of the most shocking artistic responses to World War I.
There will also be lectures and pre-concert talks – three of them in English – by Danbolt, Astrid Kvalbein, Erling Sandmo, and John Pellowe of Meyer Sound, the Berkeley-based creators of Constellation, Rosendal’s superlative electroacoustic architecture system.
For more information about the festival, visit the website.
This fall, Andsnes looks forward to the release of Chopin: Ballades & Nocturnes on the Sony Classics label on September 7. Interspersing the Romantic master composer’s four Ballades — works immense in the range and power of their expression — with three of his nocturnes, the new album represents the pianist’s first recording of Chopin’s music in more than a decade, and marks the latest addition to his already extensive and distinguished discography. Now an exclusive Sony Classical artist, he is a Gramophone Hall of Fame inductee whose output has been recognized with six Gramophone Awards, eight Grammy nominations, an unprecedented ten Norwegian Spellemannprisen, and BBC Music magazine’s “Recording of the Year.”