Classical Music Sentinel: "The efforts of the people at BIS to unearth these forgotten works for us to discover and enjoy are greatly appreciated, especially when they are performed and recorded as well as this disc demonstrates."
Born in Hammerfest, situated some 450 km north of the Arctic Circle, Ole Olsen was wont to describe himself as the ‘World’s Northernmost Composer’. A contemporary of Grieg and Svendsen, he also regarded himself as holding third place among Norway’s musical elite, with little patience for any competitors’ claims to the same position. Son of the local carpenter and baker (as well as violinist and organist), Olsen went to Trondheim as an apprentice clockmaker at the age of 15, but when his musical gifts were noticed it was arranged for him to study at the conservatory in Leipzig, where Grieg had preceded him some 10 years earlier. Returning to Norway in 1874 Olsen completed his Symphony No. 1, which was premièred in Oslo and which he later himself conducted in Leipzig as well as in Vienna and Copenhagen. From early on he had been influenced by the major works of Wagner and Liszt, and it is possible that Liszt’s symphonic poems were the inspiration for Asgaardsreien (The Ride of Asgaard). In the work, Olsen vividly depicted the mythical ‘Wild Hunt’ that has inspired musicians from Liszt (Transcendental Etude No.8) and Schoenberg (in Gurrelieder) to heavy metal bands. This fascinating composer and his colourful music are portrayed here in the first recording by what must surely be the northernmost of symphony orchestras, the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra, based in the region of Tromsø-Bodø. This recently established orchestra has already performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and made a tour to China. The orchestra’s flamboyant chief conductor, Christian Lindberg, also appears in his guise as trombone virtuoso par excellence in the first ever recording of Olsen’s Concerto for Tenor Trombone and Orchestra from 1886.
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