The 9th of September marks the start of Ultima – Oslo Contemporary Music Festival 2009 one of the cultural highlights of the autumn season in Norway.
The Ultima festival for contemporary music is one of the cultural highlights of the autumn season in Norway. This is due to the impressive standard the event has reached, both musically and as vital forum for debate and conceptualization. This elevated status is a product of focused collaboration between eighteen central institutions of Norwegian music; a joint undertaking that has developed over the course of fifteen years. Ultima’s significance has been steadily rising, and today the event appears as a major cultural happening, viewed as important to Norwegian contemporary art in general.
In 2009, and for the 19th time, Ultima will take place Sept. 9-19. This year, Ultima moves freely among musical genres. Opera and chamber music or metal, hip hop and techno – all kinds of music that one way or another have a curious, exploring attitude and experiments with its own boundaries.
Some of the 2009 highlights:
Sir Harrison Birtwistle
The Daily Telegraph ranked the distinguished composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle 62nd in a 2008 review on the 100 most powerful people in British culture. This ranks him above names such as Banksy, and Ricky Gervais.
A common denominator for Birtwistle’s works is a powerful kind crudeness. Meanwhile the music is firmly placed in a classic tradition. A significant part of Birtwistle’s oeuvre, is inspired by myths, especially from ancient times. Birtwistle was knighted in 1988 and received the Order of the Companions of Honour in 2001.
Ultima will dedicate a number of concerts to Birtwistle.
Tine Thing Helseth
The up and coming Norwegian trumpeter, 21-year-old Tine Thing Helseth, will play works by Harrison Birtwistle, Henri Dutilleux og Igor Stravinsky with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.
· Oslo konserthus, Thurs. Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m.
The British composer Michael Finnissy has completed Edvard Grieg’s piano quintet that was never finished by Grieg himself. Finnissy has both completed the actual quintet and composed a new work based on Grieg’s own writings. Finnissy will himself be piano soloist in Gamle Logen and perform his works with the leading Norwegian ensemble Cikada String Quartet.
· Gamle Logen, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 8 p.m.
Genre transcending Deathstep
The clubbing concept Dausteg (eng. Deathstep) with music journalist Tony Wilson and artist Are Mokkelbost came about when the two joined forces as DJs transcending genres like metal and hip hop. For Ultima, the duo has compiled a concert and DJ set with self-taught electric guitar virtuoso Mick Barr from the U.S:, London duo Mount Kimbie with their melodious hip hop and Norwegian hip hop collective Tri-Function Million.
· Kulturkirken Jakob, Thurs., Sept. 10, 10 p.m.
The percussion ensembles Sisu (Norway) and Kroumata (Sweden) are playing Steve Reich’s groundbreaking work Drumming. The techno duo Bygdin, one half of the sensational electro rock band 120 Days, will follow, playing a new work especially written for this concert.
· Tullinløkka/National Museum for art, architecture and design. Saturday, Sept. 12, 2 p.m.
Music for the castle
– This is truly a unique space. These are the words of Benedict Mason, Berlin-based British composer described by The Guardian as «… one of the most original musical minds around today». Mason’s own description is of Akershus castle, to which he will write a special work. This will be the tenth work in his series Music for Concert Halls, where the musical pieces each are dedicated a concert halls or another space where music is performed around Europe.
· Akershus castle, Saturday, Sept. 19, 8 p.m.
A new opera house
The National Opera has become famous internationally after moving to a new, spectacular building by the waterfront in Bjørvika, Oslo. The singer and composer Trond Reinholdtsen will launch his own, mobile opera house in Folketeaterbygningen, «Den norske opra». – and yes, the «e» is deliberately missing.
Reinholdtsen’s opera house will follow the Bayreuth Festspielhaus tradition. The Festspielhaus solely stages works from Richard Wagner, hence «Den norske opra» will only stage works composed by Reinholdtsen himself.
· Stratos, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 8 p.m.
Ultima in the house of Literature
Choosing the successful Litteraturhuset (House of Literature) as a concert arena for 2009 is not at random. Relations between text and music are recurrent themes in a number of works and productions during this year’s Ultima.
Saturday, Sept. 12 at 8 a.m. sees the German-Belgian-British artist collective Interinterinter taking over two of the floors in Litteraturhuset to guide the audience through an evening with concerts, poetry, live bookbinding and audience quizzes with prizes. Works by Laurence Crane and Helmut Oehring, among others, will be performed.
Thursday, Sept. 17 5 p.m., the Norwegian author and translator Ragnar Hovland will give a lecture on this translation of Exercises de style by Raymond Queneuau, a book where the same story is told in 99 different ways stylistically. The trio Textfukkers transforms art theory into catchy pop tunes, the London-based composer John Lely performs his works where text scores(i.e. the music is read through text, not traditional notation) are important and Nicholas Bullen (former bassist in and founding member of Napalm Death) gives a lecture and a concert over the subject rewriting. Finally, the Norwegian trio Poing celebrates its 10 year anniversary with Ragnar Hovland among the guest stars.
Classical piano concerto by jazz pianist
With the Grammy Award nominated ensemble Trondheimsolistene behind him, the first piano concerto by jazz pianist Erlend Skomsvoll will have its world premiere during Ultima. The concerto is aptly titled A Composers Diary While Writing His First Piano Concerto. During this show in Kulturkirken Jakob Friday 18th September at 6pm, the annual Arne Nordheim Composer Award will be presented to a significant Norwegian composer.
· Kulturkirken Jakob, Friday, Sept. 18, 6 p.m.