Velkommen til Fjord Classics 2024 - 2.-6. juli


About the 2024 theme, by Lars Anders Tomter

The book "The Land Without Music" was written by a gentleman named Oscar Adolf Hermann Schmitz and was published in Munich in 1904. It is about England, but today the title is seen as an involuntarily funny expression of German cultural complacency in a chauvinistic age. We must assume that his knowledge of English musical life was rather superficial. Already in the 16th century, there was a rich madrigal and choral tradition in England with significant composers such as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. One of the most popular musicians of the time was John Dowland, he was the singer-songwriter of his time. Almost everything he wrote was distinctly melancholic, often about lost love.

Henry Purcell is also a composer we often associate with noble sadness, although he could also make more cheerful music. During the festival we will play all his "Fantasies" and "In nomines" for strings which he wrote in the summer months of 1680, aged just 20. These pieces are examples of his masterful counterpoint, an English pendent to Bach's "Die Kunst der Fuge", which we distributed throughout our festival two years ago.

After Purcell, many of the important composers in England were visitors from the continent. One of the most famous was Georg Friedrich Händel, who became so integrated into English musical life that he was almost considered an Englishman. Another prominent composer was Johann Christian Bach, one of Johann Sebastian's sons, who settled and worked most of his life in London, and was called "The London Bach". Josef Haydn also had an extensive stay in the metropolis, and was very successful, both in music and in love.

Unlike J.S. Bach, Handel wrote as much for operas and royal events as for the church. Handel's works for the big events always stand out, sparkling and stately, whether they were written for fireworks or other festivities. We will perform his entire "Water Music", first performed on the River Thames, where 50 musicians accompanied King George I on a cruise from Whitehall Palace to Chelsea. The river was full of boats with Londoners eager to see and not least to listen. Although Sandefjord also has lively sea and boat life, the concert will take place indoors this time.

Peter Maxwell Davies' "8 Songs for a Mad King" is a theatrical piece of chamber music, or perhaps rather a musically absurd drama depicting George III's descent into madness. Nils Harald Sødal will portray the tragicomic character. The royal family is undoubtedly central in the mind of Britons and has provided many guidelines for music and artistic life.

Some believe Benjamin Britten was the first great English composer since the Baroque period. Britten is without a doubt one of the true greats, and someone who managed to create his own language, one that had yet to be exhausted, and which at the same time communicates with a wide audience. This year's festival begins and ends with Britten, first a small hint, a horn call, and then we end with his poetic serenade for tenor, horn and strings with an absolute dream cast: Ian Bostridge sings the tenor part, Frank Lloyd plays the virtuosic horn part, and behind sits our eminent, young string orchestra, Fjord Festival Strings under its leader Cam Kjøll.

Thomas Adés is today considered one of Britain's most important composers. During this year's festival, we will perform his string quartet "Arcadiana", which also deals with themes related to the sea and water. It will be performed by the newly formed Cordi String Quartet, another fresh addition to the rich quartet flora in Norway.

The Italian pianist Saskia Giorgini will also present music by Adés, as well as a colourful and virtuosic piano repertoire ranging from Richard Strauss to Debussy.

Kathryn Stottwho was previously artistic director of Fjord Classics, returns in her farewell season as concert pianist. In addition to playing a lot of chamber music, including a four-hand piece with her student from NMH, Martim Almeida, she will have a solo program she has called "Postcards", a summary of piano repertoire that has been close to her throughout an active musical life. Don't miss this.

Eirik Stømner, an up-and-coming Norwegian pianist, is here again this year. After an impressive performance during last year's festival with Hindemith's great piano piece Ludus Tonalis, this year he will, among other things, play George Crumb's "Song of the Whales", a work that should belong in Sandefjord! Here there will be mask playing, light effects and sounds from the depths of the sea together with, among others, Ingrid Ose, newly engaged as solo flautist in Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, and with her own festival, Ose Kammerspel.

An even younger up-and-coming pianist is Samuel Sabbah, from Sandefjord, who has already made a name for himself in Norway as an extraordinary talent.

English Romanticism, from Elgar to Vaughan Williams and Frank Bridge will also be heard for those who, like me, disagree that there were no great English composers between the Baroque and modern times. We should not be ashamed of the pastoral, the swelling, the pompous, it is better to give in.

Edward Elgar will be heard at the closing concert with his rural, dreamy and fleeting string serenade, as well as in the song cycle "Sea Pictures", which will be sung by Cecilia Lund Tomter, currently associated with the opera in Copenhagen.

Mention must also be made of two of the absolute foremost string players of our time, the sparkling Alexandra Conunova, a feast to get her back to Sandefjord, and Andreas Brantelid, a cellist who combines sensitivity, elegance and soloistic flair - a scent from times begone.

This year, as last year, we have a nachspiel, the day after the closing concert in the church. We repeat the success with a yoga concert led by Lene Skomedal. There we will hear the last of Purcell's meditative fantasies, and piano music by Erik Satie.

To round off the festival we will give outdoor concert at Preståsen, where we will present musical favourites in a relaxed format.

Welcome to our music festival in a beautiful summer town!

Lars Anders Tomter
Artistic Director