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Halvor Haug - Concertino for Brass and Percussion (1988)
(b. Trondheim, 20. February 1952)
First performance: Stockholm Concert Hall, October 7th, 1988
Halvor Haug grew up in Bærum (near Oslo). He learned to play the piano and the trumpet, playing the latter for several years in a local wind band. His theory teacher at the conservatoire, Kolbjørn Ofstad (1917 - 1996), recognised a creative talent in young Halvor and encouraged him to write some music of his own. This resulted in three small piano pieces which Ofstad asked him to orchestrate. Two of the orchestrations were performed in the Oslo University Aula by the conservatoire orchestra, thus giving Haug the first taste of what would become the main focus of his creative life: symphonic music.
Further studies in Helsinki brought him, in 1973, in contact with Einar Englund (1916 – 1999) and Erik Bergman (1911 – 2006) who where his teachers for a year. Bergman was one of the pioneers of modernism in Finland. Englund (one of the foremost Finnish symphonists in the generation after Sibelius) taught Haug mainly orchestration. These two impulses proved to be of great importance for the development of Haug’s artistic personality. In 1978 Haug received advice from the English composer Robert Simpson (1921 - 1997), another great symphonist in the second half of the Twentieth Century.
The 1976 work “Symfonisk Bilde” (Symphonic Picture) marks Haug’s first truly independent composition, written without outside guidance. Further works such as “Stillhet” (Silence) for strings and the orchestral pieces “Poema Sonoro”, “Poema Patetico” and “Furuenes Sang” (Song of the pines) established Haug as one of Norway’s foremost symphonic voices. Five symphonies followed, the last three of which were commissioned, nos. 3 and 5 by the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and no. 4 by the Oslo Philharmonic.
The work “Insignia” was commissioned for the Lillehammer Olympic Games in 1994. It became one of Haug’s most often performed works internationally. Other commissions include the symphonic song cycle “Glem aldri henne” (‘Never forget her’ – Trondheim S.O. for the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the city of Trondheim, 2000) and “Il Preludio dell’ Ignoto” (Ungdomssymfonikerne).
Haug has also written a number of remarkable chamber works, amongst which the most prominent are his two string quartets (1985 and 1996) and the Piano Trio (1995). The second string quartet was premiered at the 1996 Stavanger Chamber Music Festival, where Haug was festival composer that year. Other pieces in smaller format include the early “Sonatine” for violin and piano (1973), “Duetto Bramoso” for violin and guitar (1976) a Brass Quintet from 1981 and “Essay” for alto trombone and string quartet (1987).
Christoph Schlüren, one of Halvor Haug’s tireless advocates, has the following to say about his music:
Haug’s dissonance treatment, his chordal collisions which flow like molten lava, and his diatonically led, chromatically regulated strong sense of melody are evidence of a composer of immense and refined sensibilities.[…]
Halvor Haug is among the minority of composers who are fully in control of the orchestra as an instrument. He knows how best to calculate orchestral effects and is aware of new instrumental combinations. A virtuoso in the use of orchestral chiaroscuro and timbral change, he integrates competing qualities of sound in the service of absolute musical drama. […]
The composer, however, is not party to a philosophy of avoidance or negation, preferring to see his output as one that has emerged from a Nordic symphonic tradition still in its infancy. His grammatical style obeys other rules that those of his predecessors. His syntax is extremely personal. And the content is what holds the whole thing together, having its roots in a uniquely personal soil. Again and again, we recognise that it is not the ‘what’ but the ‘how’ which determines the artistic success of any piece of music. Halvor Haug’s musical language may be full of allusions, but it never runs out of ideas, just as a good film is more than the sum of the individual scenes. It is up to the listener to identify the main theme, and to align himself with the wishes of the protagonist. For the protagonist is not just an acoustic phenomenon, but a living being. But life itself is inscrutable in that the distinctness of one who lives and that which is lived remains part of the act of living.
(Christoph Schlüren: “Halvor Haug – Music’s inscrutable Life” 1997)
The composer writes:
It felt like an honour to receive a commission from the Scandinavian Brass Ensemble, which consisted of musicians from the best orchestras in the Nordic Countries, such as the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Danish Radio Concert Orchestra, Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. It was of course awe inspiring at the time to be able to write for an elite such as this.
Concertino was composed in a relatively short period of time in September. I remember that I was disturbed by a number of external circumstances that seemed to conspire against me. This is mirrored in the titles of the movements, “Signals”, “Feelings Without Permission” and “Conquest”. The creative urge won over all the disturbances. The music has no program and the three brief movements are to be played without pause.
The ensemble had a small concert tour in the period 7. – 10. October 1988. The premiere in Stockholm Concert Hall was followed by concerts in Gothenburg Concert Hall, Oslo Concert Hall and Helsinki, the last mentioned marking the opening of a brass symposium, with a live recording for Finland’s Radio (YLE). The conductor throughout was the renowned Finnish conductor Jorma Panula. In later years Concertino has often been performed in Sweden.
1. November 2021
no German preface available ...
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