Author Topic: Ragnar Soderlind(1945-): a Norwegian Symphonist  (Read 2694 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Ragnar Soderlind(1945-): a Norwegian Symphonist
« on: December 24, 2011, 08:29:43 AM »
(I have been meaning to write about Soderlind for weeks now ;D)

Can I commend with all possible enthusiasm the music of the Norwegian composer Ragnar Soderlind.

This article was written almost 10 years ago now but it is well worth reading-

As you will see, Soderlind was a pupil of Kokkonen in Finland. If you have any interest/liking for the music of Finnish composers like Englund or Kokkonen himself you would be impressed by Soderlind.

I have just finishing listening again to Soderlind's Symphony No.5 "Kvistunn"(1995). The last few minutes of the 5th Symphony are-in my judgment-massively impressive. This is "neo-romanticism" (if such, really exists ;D) at its most moving.

Sadly, as I have regretted before here, Norway does not export its music in the same successful way as Sweden, Finland or Denmark. So composers writing in an idiom with which I have real empathy-composers like Soderlind and Halvor Haug-are not as well known as should be the case.

I am only familiar with his-
Symphony No.2 "Sinfonia breve"
Symphony No.3 "Les illuminations symphonique" for soprano, baritone and orchestra
Symphony No.4 "Sedimenti Musicali"
Symphony No.5 "Kvistunn"
Violin Concerto
Cello Concerto
Symphonic Poem "Rokkomborre"
Symphonic Visions "Polaris"

Most of the commercially recorded works on this list are on the Norwegian Aurora label(with the Symphony No.4 and Cello Concerto played by the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow under Vladimir Fedoseyev :))

............but Soderlind has composed nine symphonies in total, including Symphony No.6 "Todesahnung"(1999), Symphony No.7 "La Campane dell'Atlantico"(2002), Symphony No.8 "Jean Sibelius in Memoriam"(2005), which I would love to hear.

Soderlind is one of the very few living composers and symphonists whose music really impresses me. It combines, to my ears, the symphonic tradition of the past with an acceptable modern dimension. It is "neo-romantic" in the best sense of that term ;D It can be angry and despairing(Soderlind, like Haug, is an opponent of developments which he views as damaging to the Norwegian natural environment) but it is in the very top rank of that marvellous vein of rich, grand Scandinavian symphonism of the 20th century which(I freely concede) appeals enormously to my own musical taste.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Ragnar Soderlind(1945-): a Norwegian Symphonist
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2012, 07:56:18 PM »
I didn't respond because I have nothing useful to say on the subject, but your mention of the composer caused me to look him up on Amazon, and ran into this for a low price:

It's a common surname and no forename is mentioned, but, hey, even if it is a different guy, your thread on a Norwegian composer got someone to indirectly buy some other obscure Norwegian music - and that is half the battle.
Peanut butter, flour and sugar do not make cookies. They make FIRE.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Ragnar Soderlind(1945-): a Norwegian Symphonist
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2012, 06:49:21 AM »
Excellent :)

Offline relm1

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Re: Ragnar Soderlind(1945-): a Norwegian Symphonist
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2020, 03:24:33 PM »
Yikes, this thread hasn't had a post in over 8 years!   ???

Does anyone here know Norwegian?  If so, can someone give some highlights of this new interview with Soderlind?

I understand he also had a new opera premiered.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Ragnar Soderlind(1945-): a Norwegian Symphonist
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2020, 03:35:14 PM »
Sorry, I can't help you with Norwegian but I consider that his 8th Symphony 'In Memory of Jean Sibelius' is one of the best works I know by a living composer. Sadly there is no CD of it but it's on You Tube:
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline relm1

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Re: Ragnar Soderlind(1945-): a Norwegian Symphonist
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2020, 06:27:17 AM »
Yikes, this thread hasn't had a post in over 8 years!   ???

Does anyone here know Norwegian?  If so, can someone give some highlights of this new interview with Soderlind?

I understand he also had a new opera premiered.

It looks like google translate did a very good job of translating the article and I now realize it was a transcript of the video.  Interesting mention of his brand new 90 minute long Symphony No. 10.  Hopefully we'll get to hear it soon.  It seems like he has been treated very unfairly by the Norwegian Music Establishments.
=====Article below

On Saturday 27 June, Ragnar Søderlind turns 75 years old. He has been composing for more than 60 years, but feels that much of his work has been thwarted.
Gabrielle Graatrud
June 25, 2020
A century of its own: Ragnar Søderlind's fourth symphony
Ragnar Söderlind's monumental 4th Symphony, op. 50 from 1991 will be performed on Thursday by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation under the direction of Finnish Hannu Lintu. With the subtitle "Sedimenti musicali", the symphony expresses the composer's debt to old symphonic masters such as Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Sibelius and Shostakovich. The concert is part of the series "A separate century", which is part of the Centenary of Norway 2005 official program. Here you can read Elef Nesheim's introduction to the work, which will be played in Lindemansalen at the Norwegian Academy of Music on Thursday 12 May, at 19:30. The concert is also broadcast live on NRK P2.
This interview was done with composer Ragnar Søderlind has been done both in text and as a video recording. You can see the recording via the top picture in this case, or via the link in the case. This is part of Ballade's desire to explore new and more ways of communicating, and to strengthen and enlarge our forms and channels of communication. In addition to producing textual material, we will make several audio and video recordings we publish as podcasts in Ballade radio, video interviews and online meetings and lectures in video format. Ballade has received support from the Fritt Ord Foundation for this initiative through their extra grants in connection with the corona crisis.

- It is interesting how unfair the music history is, and how much fantastic music has been written, not least by women, and people outside Europe and in our own country. But I never think the classical music life will get caught up in any of it, Norwegian music life has solidified completely, Ragnar Søderlind states from his own living room at Marienlyst in Oslo.

The composer turns 75 on Saturday 27 June, and Ballade meets him for a chat about his 60-year career. Søderlind repeatedly points out that he believes the history of music is unfair, and is particularly concerned that the major differences in classical music life in Norway must soon be erased.
- There has been a schism in the music life, and a polarization of the composer community. It started already in the 1980s. I call myself a tonal composer, and my big project, if I have had any project, is the harmony or the chords in the music, which is the core of the entire European music culture, in contrast to, for example, the music of the East. I want to keep the excitement going for a while, and I have stuck to that throughout my career. But even though I write tonally and melodically, I use many of the tools of the present and the recent past. Nevertheless, we who write are tonally seen as second-class composers in Norwegian music life.

- I do not like to be called a contemporary composer. I'm a composer. All composers have been contemporary composers, and all composers have written contemporary music.

Writing since the age of 14
Right behind him is a work table with two screens, a music stand and a large number of keys. From there he has composed the latest of his now 130 opuses. From here he still works, now that he no longer teaches as a professor of composition and instrumentation at the Norwegian Academy of Music, a few steps away. Søderlind started composing when he was 14 years old, has written commissioned works for almost all major music institutions in Norway, and is considered one of Norway's most productive composers. His list of works includes ten symphonies, as well as concertos for violin, viola, cello, piano and trumpet. Søderlind has also written four ballets, three on literary subjects: Hedda Gabler, Kristin Lavransdatter , Victoriaand one, Between Cupid and Psyche, over Edvard Munch's visual art, as well as the operas Esther and the Blue Tranquility , Rose and Raven, and Olav Tryggvason .
His very first piece was a march to the 60th anniversary of his own school corps at Grünerløkka school in 1961. The march became popular, and eventually played in the University's auditorium. His works have since been performed on stages all over the world, but Søderlind still often feels misunderstood within the Norwegian music scene - and has expressed this several times.
- There was an early split in the Composers' Association, and those who founded the Ulitma festival took power. I felt that they directly opposed what I stood for. When you look at what the Composers' Association has offered the music scene, it is Ultima music and plingplong that have taken precedence. If you look at who has received awards, they are largely the same. But it should not make a difference if you write in one style or the other, he believes.
ALSO READ: A century of its own: Ragnar Søderlind's fourth symphony
Received criticism
Due to the division in the Norwegian music scene, all his greatest achievements have also been strongly criticized, Søderlind believes. The 74-year-old highlight was the ballet Victoria, based on Knut Hamsun's novel, which was premiered during the Bergen Festival in 1986 as one of the real highlights of his own career. He himself was the conductor when the ballet was premiered to resounding cheers. But the play received mixed reviews.
- I am what is called a traditionalist, I take a tradition, let it go through me and let new music inspired by something recognizable come out on the other side. I wanted the color from the 1890s in Victoria, so I have allusions to Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss and several others from that era, to give the ballet a color. But I got a lot of criticism for that. Several of my colleagues stated that they did not like that I used musical elements from the 1890s. But I wanted to incorporate all the styles that belonged to the play, in addition to my own style, he says.
ALSO READ Søderlind's post in the debate about tradition and experimentation in contemporary music
Wanted to quit
He would like more of the Norwegian institutions to be willing to set up new Norwegian works, and has experienced that several of his commissioned works have been canceled.
It was heaviest when The Lady from the Sea, a commissioned work for the opening of the new opera house in Bjørvika, was taken off the poster before it was finished - a decision that created a lot of debate.
- I think I have powerful enemies in music life who do not like what I stand for. I still think that opera is one of the best I've done, he says and looks into the air in front of him.
- After that, I decided to finish the orders I had, and then stop composing. When one is not taken more seriously than that, I decided to quit. I did not want to contribute to a music environment that just shrugged, he admits.

But after the decision, he experienced unexpectedly great success with several works, in addition, a sudden reunion with one of his favorite poems gave him the desire to work back.
- Yes, I suddenly took out The Waste Land by TS Eliot, and got the whole poem set to music. The music is not listed, but it is a fantastic poem, and after that I changed the way I wrote music. I have always written for lyrics, but after this I got my very own grip on this with composing for text. I feel like I became a better composer.
- But it is not certain Norwegian music life thinks so then, he adds.
- When you listen to music, you should understand what the meaning of the words is and vice versa. The music should take the points of the text. Music should also be able to speak alone.
Writes about life
For Søderlind, it has been important to move on, and he has also used the work to process events in his own life. He composed one of his favorite works after his mother and father died just four days apart in 1991.
- I wrote the slow movement in my cello concerto after they both died. It is written with what I call the stubborn pen. I did not think, just wrote, he says.
- It has been important for me to be able to write about things in my own life, and to be able to use music for all aspects of life. I do not want to compose music that can only be played at special festivals, but music that can be for everyone.
Søderlind sees music as a language, and likes to post references many people recognize, not inventing language images that are incomprehensible to the uninitiated. He has also always been concerned that the music should speak for itself, and that it should not depend on the text to convey a message.
"I think that popular music has become too dependent on lyrics, because much of the music no longer has the power to stand up to the lyrics," he says, giving an example of singing the cheerful tones that follow the sad lyrics in the old penny song. In a ward at the hospital.
- When you listen to music, you should understand what the meaning of the words are and vice versa. The music should take the points of the text. Music should also be able to speak alone.
He also calls for more people to talk about Norwegian classical music, and for more people to try to make contemporary music available. He himself received one glowing critique of his newly written church opera Draumkvedet , which was performed in January this year. The work otherwise received little attention.
- Norwegian classical music receives little attention. I do not understand why the entire Norwegian music tradition has gone underground. Much of the new music is not played, because we have no tradition that goes back to the beginning when we started writing Norwegian music in this country. I am mostly pessimistic when it comes to classical contemporary music, he sighs and adds that he thinks the conductors do not prioritize Norwegian works.

- The large institutions do not respond to correspondence appropriately, and when they receive a score, it is not considered. It is difficult to swallow. The conductor, the artistic directors, are also always foreigners on the rise. They are interested in themselves and their own repertoire. They do not think that this country also has a culture. I wonder where it gets from the feeling for the Norwegian in the music.

Søderlind also regrets that he has not fought more to get attention around his works.
- When a work is finished, I do not care so much about it anymore. I let it stand on its own two feet right away, so I have not done enough for my works. But there are 130 opuses, and many are large, so then it becomes difficult to propagate for all my works, he says.
Søderlind hopes, however, that the new board of the Composers' Association will give more space to tonal composers, and that new, Norwegian music will eventually be prioritized by the Norwegian institutions. He himself continues to compose music for as long as he can.
- I have just finished writing my tenth symphony now. Or I call the Symphonia X . X is the number ten, but it can mean exit, extra, or lots of different. In addition, it has been given a current subtitle: Corona . The 90 minute work is shaped like a crown with a lullaby in the middle. But I have left the X as a kind of enigma - a riddle, he says secretly.
- I wonder where it gets from the feeling for the Norwegian in the music, says composer Ragnar Søderlind (Photo: Gabrielle Graatrud)
Over the past year, he has also worked on two works that were postponed or canceled this spring due to the corona crisis, Sparrow in the Eye , a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and the Broadcasting Orchestra, as well as a climate hymn for his own choir.
- I have enough ideas in the future as long as I live, it is more a matter of realizing the ideas I have.
New diversity
Jørgen Karlstrøm, chairman of the board of the Composers' Association, is already aware that Ragnar Søderlind claims that atonal composers have had precedence in the association, and that there have previously been discussions about this internally.
- The Composers' Association has always had a high ceiling when it comes to discussions about politics, aesthetics and music, and there is room to mean many different things. I experience that the association today is very united, and that it is professional unity, not lines of conflict between different forms of music that is now central, says Karlstrøm to
- It is not possible for me to comment on what Søderlind experienced 20-30 years ago, but today we have a diverse membership, with different types of composers who work with everything from symphonic music, opera, electronic music and jazz and much more. We work for the rights of all members, and for there to be room for a large diversity of musical expressions, in addition to working to make the entire ecosystem in Norwegian music life work.
Does not recognize himself in the criticism
Alex Taylor, artistic director of the Oslo Philharmonic (OF), writes in an email to Ballade that 10 of 17 newly written works performed by the Philharmonic in the 2019-20 season were by Norwegian composers.
- Norwegian music participated in five of chief conductor Vasily Petrenko's eight completed programs (two programs were canceled due to the corona crisis), and the Oslo Philharmonic performed Norwegian works (by Ludvig Irgens-Jensen, Gisle Kverndokk, Johan Svendsen, Arne Nordheim, Edvard Grieg and Øyvind Torvund) outside Oslo in Larvik and on tour in Bucharest, Cologne, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Vienna, Ljubljana, Udine, Turin and London.
He writes that all submitted scores are considered, but that they do not receive a response to all inquiries.
OF still receives inquiries from publishers and composers, as well as submitted scores. We have not received an inquiry from Ragnar Søderlind since 2015. Then he received an answer. Otherwise, we unfortunately do not have the capacity to respond to all unsolicited inquiries. Both the artistic director of planning, the director of development and the program council evaluate scores and have regular meetings and dialogue with composers.
Kenneth Fredstie, communications manager at the Norwegian Opera & Ballet, also does not recognize that they do not answer inquiries or evaluate works.
- Annilese Miskimmon has joined the English National Opera, but we can confirm that she has had a dialogue with Søderlind about a specific work. The house's artistic leaders make overall assessments both to give the Norwegian audience a rich opera and ballet repertoire, and to manage both a Norwegian and an international cultural heritage. At the same time, the debate about the conditions for Norwegian composers and the development of Norwegian music is important.
He also points out that they have many Norwegian artistic directors at DNO & B, and that they have performed a number of new works by Norwegian composers in recent years.
- We can mention Rolf Wallin ( Elysium ), Maja Ratke ( Hunger ), Henrik Skram ( The Hamlet Complex ), Gisle Kverndokk ( Purriot and the missing bronze horse ), Nils Henrik Asheim ( The storm - the story of Miranda and Ferdinand ) and Synne Skouen ( Ballerina ). The latter is now working on a new commissioned work for DNO & B.