Established in 1919, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra are an internationally renowned symphony orchestra. Lead by conductor Vasily Petrenko, they arrive at Bristol’s Colston Hall on Friday 11 March.
With a wide repertoire, the orchestra bring their musical expertise to unique arrangements of compositions including those of Mahler, Sibelius and Grieg.
Ingrid Røynesdal joined as CEO two years ago, on the same day that chief conductor Vasily Petrenko joined. Classically trained in piano, Ingrid has always felt an affinity for the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and her father used to play in an orchestra. 2016 is an exciting year for the orchestra, who are waiting to receive news of a new concert hall to be built in Filipstad in Oslo.
“If you open up your ears, and maintain a curiosity, anyone can enjoy classical music.” Ingrid says.
Mid way through their six date tour of the UK, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing at Bristol’s Colston Hall on Friday 11 March. Lead by conductor Vasily Petrenko, who brings his own experiences to the compositions from Tchaikovsky to Mahler to Sibelius, the 108 strong orchestra will be performing Grieg’s Gangar from Lyrical Suite, Sibelius’ Violin Concerto and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.
Previously, Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste lead the orchestra – paying homage to Sibelius and his renowned compositions from Finlandia to Symphony No 1. Vasily Petrenko trained at the St Petersburg Conservatoire and has been the Chief Conductor of Royal Liverpool Philharmonic since 2006 and for the European Union Youth Orchestra since 2015. He has held his post as conductor for the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013. His concert in Oslo in August 2013 with the orchestra saw Petrenko inaugurated in his new role conducting Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
“As a British citizen, it has been one of my top priorities to bring the Oslo Philharmonic to the United Kingdom for a major tour,” Says Vasily Petrenko. “We have played together at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival but I wanted audiences around the country to hear what the orchestra is capable of achieving. Each season we work on a large amount of repertoire and that tremendous variety of music is reflected in our tour programmes. The process of improving any orchestra is endless and this tour is part of our work of going deeper together into the music. I have learned many things since coming to Oslo three years ago which have helped me to improve my own work. I now look forward to making music with the orchestra for our British audiences.” Vasily adds.
“If you open up your ears, and maintain a curiosity, anyone can enjoy classical music.”
Plans for a new concert hall to be built on the waterfront in Filipstad in Oslo, will bring further opportunities – not only to the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra but also to Norway’s renowned classical music reputation.
“It’s a whole new era”, Ingrid explains. “We’re currently waiting on regulations, you never really know how long it will take, but we hope it will go ahead and be completed within two years.” Ingrid adds.
Norway, as a Scandinavian country, has a strong educational system – of which, the Oslo Philharmonic does maintain connections with. 75% of its musicians are from Norway, with the remaining 25% from international countries. Ingrid and Vasily maintain that this enhances the dynamic within the orchestra, bringing fresh perspectives, culturally diverse backgrounds and an exciting aesthetic to the performances.
“Norway is quite a small country and we do have strong connections to the schools and universities. The good thing about our music programmes, are we have some really excellent teachers. This can bring in a quality of musicians who can actually get a job with us, upon completing their musical studies. This is such an important aspect to consider.” Ingrid says.
This is the first time since the Oslo Philharmonic have come to the UK with Vasily Petrenko as their Music Director. Their previous performance at the Edinburgh International Festival was in 2015, and the Oslo Philharmonic appeared at the BBC Proms in 2013.
“We played in Manchester on our opening night, and it was such a warm and welcoming atmosphere. We do love being in the UK. It’s always a pleasure to be here.” Ingrid says.
“This is one of the diamonds in the Oslo Philharmonic’s repertoire at present and, of course, it is such an iconic piece of music, perhaps Mahler’s best-known composition.”
The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra’s diversity and openness to create an international community through their music, and through the orchestra itself is reflected in the ultimate interpretations of much loved scores by Mahler, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski will be joining the Oslo Philharmonic for performances of Rachmaninov’s evergreen Second Piano Concerto in Manchester, Basingstoke, Birmingham and Saffron Walden.
“We first worked together in 2007 and have collaborated often ever since,” Petrenko recalls. “The orchestra really loves working with him. Simon plays Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto so exceptionally well and is one of the very best interpreters of the piece today. It was among my big wishes to bring him with us on tour.” Vasily explains.
Stopping in at Bristol’s Colston Hall, the Oslo Philharmonic will perform Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, written between 1902 and 1903.
“This is one of the diamonds in the Oslo Philharmonic’s repertoire at present and, of course, it is such an iconic piece of music, perhaps Mahler’s best-known composition. We look forward to performing it in Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Saffron Walden. When we play this work, we are aware of the drama of Mahler’s midlife crisis and the premonitions he had of dark and difficult things that were to come; we are also aware of the Fifth Symphony’s move from dramatic thoughts to jubilation. The main idea for us is about how we can overcome the drama of the current life to glorify our deeds and the deeds of humanity. I believe this is a very modern concern. And so we will glorify Mahler Five!” Vasily explains.
“We really want to show people what a symphony orchestra can be, and what we can provide.”
Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud will also be performing alongside Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra for their tour of the UK this March. An acclaimed musician and composer, Kraggerud is widely recognised for his solo work, and appeared at Carnegie Hall in 1998.
“Henning is one of the great Scandinavian violinists, a truly world-class artist. For me to bring him to Britain with the Oslo Philharmonic feels very natural, something that simply had to happen. The orchestra is famed for its tradition of playing the music of Sibelius and we also know that his Violin Concerto is among the most popular concertos with audiences in the United Kingdom. Tchaikovsky is, of course, Tchaikovsky: you can never have enough performances of his Violin Concerto! It’s one of the greatest violin pieces of all time.” Vasily adds.
Kraggerud will perform Sibelius at Colston Hall on Friday 11 March.
“There is something in Sibelius that we can all relate to. His work forms a strong part of our repertoire.” Ingrid says.
While there will be audiences who have closely followed the work of Oslo Philharmonic since its earliest days, and with an intrinsic understanding of classical music, there is no doubt that their concerts will appeal to everyone. As a collective of professional musicians and composers, they feel it partly their duty to create and maintain this curiosity within audiences – both old and new:
“Quite often, the general experience is people tend to feel that they need to have a lot of knowledge of classical music to be able to appreciate it fully. That can discourage people from exploring this music. But I think that more and more people are realising that all it takes is opening yourself up to a new way of thinking.” Ingrid says.
Interestingly, despite the school systems within Norway being dedicated to encouraging an appreciation for a diverse range of music – both classical and contemporary – Ingrid explains that there is still some work to be done:
“A lot of students just aren’t relating to classical music at all. We really want to show people what a symphony orchestra can be, and what we can provide. It’s also very much about the enjoyment.” Ingrid says.
The year ahead feels an exciting one for not only the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, but for classical music in Norway in general, with plans for the new concert hall – there is always an open window for new opportunities:
“It would be dangerous to think that we are already well established.” Ingrid says. “We are always striving to seek how we can play an even more important role within our society, and we are looking forward to new challenges along the way.”
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra perform at Colston Hall on Friday 11 March at 7.30pm.
For tickets and more information: www.colstonhall.org
For more information on the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra: www.ofo.no.en