Arne Nordheim

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Arne Nordheim
Arne Nordheim (1968).jpg
Nordheim in 1968
Born20 June 1931
Died5 June 2010

Arne Nordheim (20 June 1931 5 June 2010) was a Norwegian composer. Nordheim received numerous awards for his compositions, and from 1982 lived in the Norwegian government's honorary residence, Grotten, next to the Royal Palace in Oslo. [1] He was elected an honorary member of the International Society for Contemporary Music in 1997. On 18 August 2006, Arne Nordheim received a doctor honoris causa degree at the Norwegian Academy of Music. He died at the age of 78 and was given a state funeral. [2]

The politics of Norway take place in the framework of a parliamentary representative democratic constitutional monarchy. Executive power is exercised by the Council of State, the cabinet, led by the Prime Minister of Norway. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the legislature, the Storting, elected within a multi-party system. The judiciary is independent of the executive branch and the legislature.


Grotten is a nineteenth-century building located on the premises of the Royal Palace in the city centre of Oslo, Norway. Grotten is an honorary residence owned by the Norwegian state.

Oslo Place in Østlandet, Norway

Oslo is the capital and most populous city of Norway. It constitutes both a county and a municipality. Founded in the year 1040 as Ánslo, and established as a kaupstad or trading place in 1048 by Harald Hardrada, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and a capital under Haakon V of Norway around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark from 1397 to 1523 and again from 1536 to 1814 reduced its influence, and with Sweden from 1814 to 1905 it functioned as a co-official capital. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, during the reign of King Christian IV, a new city was built closer to Akershus Fortress and named Christiania in the king's honour. It was established as a municipality (formannskapsdistrikt) on 1 January 1838. The city's name was spelled Kristiania between 1877 and 1897 by state and municipal authorities. In 1925 the city was renamed Oslo.


Musical education

Arne Nordheim's childhood home at 13 Ovre Jegersborggate. Ovre Jegersborggate 13.jpg
Arne Nordheim's childhood home at 13 Øvre Jegersborggate.

At the then Oslo Conservatory of Music (now the Norwegian Academy of Music), where Nordheim studied from 1948 to 1952, he started out as a theory and organ student, but changed to composition, studying with Karl August Andersen (1903–1970), Bjarne Brustad, and Conrad Baden. Then in 1955 he studied with Vagn Holmboe in Copenhagen, [3] and studied musique concrète in Paris. Later he studied electronic music in Bilthoven (1959), and paid many visits to the Studio Eksperymentalne of Polish Radio (19671972), where many of his early electronic works were realised (including Pace, Solitaire, and Lux et tenebrae (Poly-Poly)). In 2005, many lost and forgotten tapes of electronic compositions for radio drama for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) were rediscovered, reminding us that Nordheim also developed his electronic musical language in his home country. [4]

Norwegian Academy of Music

The Norwegian Academy of Music is a music conservatory located in Oslo, Norway, in the neighbourhood of Majorstuen, Frogner. It is the largest music academy in Norway and offers the country's highest level of music education. As a university college, it offers both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Throughout the years the Academy has educated many of Norway's most renowned musicians.

Organ (music) musical keyboard instrument

In music, the organ is a keyboard instrument of one or more pipe divisions or other means for producing tones, each played with its own keyboard, played either with the hands on a keyboard or with the feet using pedals. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria, who invented the water organ. It was played throughout the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman world, particularly during races and games. During the early medieval period it spread from the Byzantine Empire, where it continued to be used in secular (non-religious) and imperial court music, to Western Europe, where it gradually assumed a prominent place in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Subsequently it re-emerged as a secular and recital instrument in the Classical music tradition.

Bjarne Brustad Norwegian musician

Bjarne Brustad was a Norwegian composer, violinist and violist. He played with symphonic orchestras in Stavanger and Oslo. In the 1920s he travelled to European cities such as Paris, Munich and Berlin, where he received musical inspiration and contacts. From 1928 to 1943, Brustad was viola soloist with Philharmonic Society Orchestra in Oslo. He wrote symphonies, compositions for violin and orchestra, chamber music and opera. His opera Atlantis was finished in 1945. After World War II he was also active in organizing work.


His Essay for string quartet was first performed in Stockholm in 1954, but Nordheim always considered his String Quartet of 1956 as his Opus 1. His musical output is focused around themes of 'solitude, death, love, and landscape'; [5] these themes are already evident in his song cycle Aftonland (Evening Land, 1959), a setting of poems by the Swedish poet Pär Lagerkvist, which brought him national recognition. The 1961 Canzonaper orchestra was his international breakthrough. Inspired by Giovanni Gabrieli's canzone, the work showcases Nordheim's historical leanings, as well as his occupation with space as a parameter of music. Nordheim's spatial concerns, coupled with his focus on death and human suffering, are brought together in what is arguably his most famous work, Epitaffioper orchestra e nastro magnetico (1963). Written in memory of the Norwegian flautist Alf Andersen, who died that year at a very young age, the work incorporated Salvatore Quasimodo's poem Ed è sùbito sera. Originally conceived for orchestra and chorus, Nordheim realised that his wish to have the whole performance space 'singing' was better achieved with the use of electronic means. The result is a remarkable, almost imperceptible, blending of the orchestral sounds with the choral sounds of the tape, where the final line 'ed è sùbito sera' ('and suddenly it is evening') is the only part of the text that can be heard. [6]

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund, a strait at the Swedish-Danish border. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. Sweden has a total population of 10.2 million of which 2.4 million has a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi). The highest concentration is in the southern half of the country.

Pär Lagerkvist Swedish writer

Pär Fabian Lagerkvist was a Swedish author who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951.

Giovanni Gabrieli Italian composer

Giovanni Gabrieli was an Italian composer and organist. He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms.

His later compositions include The Tempest (1979), Klokkesong (1984), Magma (1988), the Violin Concerto (1996) and Fonos for trombone and orchestra (2004). Arne Norheim was inspired by the neumes and the sound of the medieval bells in Kaupanger stave church in composing the work Klokkesong, which was first performed in the church. In The Tempest, a ballet based on Shakespeare's play, electronics and orchestral sounds are again mixed, while the focus is more strongly on vocal music (e.g. the 'double voice' of Caliban), while Nordheim's continued use of historical elements is shown by the incorporation of Leonardo da Vinci's musical rebus, which solved reads Amore sol la mi fa remirare, la sol mi fa sollecita. [7]

William Shakespeare English playwright and poet

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Leonardo da Vinci Italian Renaissance polymath

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, drawing, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and he is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter, and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal.

1968 saw Arne Nordheim being bestowed with the Nordic Council Music Prize for his Eco for soprano, two choirs and orchestra. The work marks the start of a new development phase, in which Nordheim proved that he could create electrophonic-sounding timbres from conventional instruments. [8]

Nordic Council Music Prize award

The Nordic Council Music Prize is awarded annually by NOMUS, the Nordic Music Committee. Every two years it is awarded for a work by a living composer. In the intervening years it is awarded to a performing musician or ensemble.

Throughout his career, Nordheim would receive a number of commissions which would result in such works as Greening (1973) written for Zubin Mehta and Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra; the ballet Stormen (1979) for Schwezinger Festival in Germany; the cello concerto Tenebrae (1980) for Mstislav Rostropovitch; Aurora (1983) for vocal ensemble Electric Phoenix and the orchestral work Magma (1988) for the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Additional major works include Wirklicher Wald (1983) for soprano, cello, choir and orchestra commissioned for the centenary anniversary for the Oslo Music Conservatory and Boomerang (1985) for oboe and chamber orchestra written for the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra.

Zubin Mehta Indian conductor

Zubin Mehta is an Indian conductor of Western and Eastern classical music. He is currently music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) and Conductor Emeritus of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Amsterdam Capital city of the Netherlands and municipality

Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous municipality of the Netherlands. Its status as the capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands, although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam has a population of 854,047 within the city proper, 1,357,675 in the urban area and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country but is not its capital, which is Haarlem. The Amsterdam metropolitan area comprises much of the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, which has a population of approximately 8.1 million.

Draumkvedet is a monumental stage work for orchestra, (acting) chamber choir, soloists and dancers, and was performed 40 times in 1994 with the Broadcasting Corporation Radio Orchestra and Grex Vocalis. A recording featuring these performing forces conducted by Ingar Bergby was made in 2001, and released in 2006 as a two-CD set on the Simax label (Simax PSC 1169). Based on a medieval Norwegian poem (Draumkvedet, The Dream Song), the work was composed in honor of the millennium of the city of Trondheim in 1997. [9]

Nordheim was a great admirer of playwright Henrik Ibsen and devoted time to study his life and literary output. Nordheim composed music for Den Nationale Scene’s performance of Peer Gynt. On a number of occasions, Nordheim held talks titled “Thre composers' approaches to Peer gynt” which featured a highlight where Edvard Grieg’s music for Aase’s Death was sampled and spliced with Nordheim’s own composition. Naturally, both composers had elected to compose their scores for this scene in b minor.

To commemorate Nordheim’s 70th birthday in 2001, a celebratory concert was held, featuring the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. The Norwegian ministry of culture and church affairs would also celebrate the composer, and established the Arne Nordheim Composer’s Prize which is bestowed on an annual basis to a composer of Norwegian residence. [10]

In later years, Nordheim suffered from dementia, and expired early on Saturday 5 June 2010, following a prolonged bout of illness. The state funeral was held at the Oslo Cathedral on 16th of June.

Prizes and awards

Astronomical honor

3457 Arnenordheim, a minor planet circling the sun in the main asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter was named for the composer after its discovery in 1985.

Cultural references


Selected works

Music for stage productions

  • Katharsis (ballett), orchestra and tape (1962)
  • Favola (music drama for TV), 2 singers, 10 dancers, orchestra and tape (1963)
  • Ariadne (ballet based on cantata Tempora Noctis), (1977)
  • Stormen (ballet), 2 singers, orchestra, tape, (1979)
  • Kong Lear (theatre music), (1985)
  • Antigone (theatre music), (1991)
  • Draumkvedet (music drama), vocal soloists, dancers, choir, orchestra, tape, (1994)

Orchestral works and concertos

  • Canzona, orchestra, (1960)
  • Epitaffio, orchestra and tape, (1963)
  • Eco (tekst: S. Quasimodo), soprano, children's choir, mixed choir and orchestra, (1968)
  • Floating, orchestra, (1970)
  • Greening, orchestra,(1973)
  • Doria (tekst: E. Pound), tenor and orchestra, (1975)
  • Nachruf for Strings, (1975)
  • Spur, accordion and orchestra, (1975)
  • Tempora Noctis (tekst: Ovid), soprano, mezzo-soprano, orchestra and tape, (1979)
  • The Tempest Suite (tekst: W. Shakespeare), soprano, barython, orchestra and tape, (1979)
  • Tenebrae, cello and orchestra, (1982)
  • Wirklicher Wald (text: R. M. Rilke), soprano, cello, mixed choir and (1983)
  • Boomerang, oboe and chamber orchestra, (1985)
  • Recall and Signals, symphonic wind ensemble, percussion and emulator, (1986)
  • Rendezvous for strings, (1987)
  • Magma, orchestra, (1988)
  • Monolith, orchestra, (1991)
  • Adieu, string orchestra and bell instruments, (1994)
  • Cada Cancion (text: F. Garcia Lorca), children's choir, mixed choir and orchestra, (1994)
  • Non Gridate (text: G. Ungaretti), soprano, mixed choir and orchestra, (1995)
  • Confutatis, soprano, mixed choir and orchestra (1995)
  • Nedstigningen (text: S. Mehren, Job, Catullus, Dante), recitation, soprano, girl's choir, orchestra and electronics, (1996)
  • Violin Concerto, (1996)
  • Nidaros (1997)

Chamber music

  • Essay, string quartet, (1954)
  • Epigram, string quartet, (1955)
  • Strykekvartett, (1956)
  • Aftonland (text: P. Lagerkvist), soprano and chamber ensemble, (1957)
  • Partita, viola, cembalo and percussion, (1963)
  • Response I, 2 percussionists and tape, (1966)
  • Signaler, accordion, el-guitar and percussion, (1967)
  • Response II, 1 percussionists and tape, (1968)
  • Colorazione, Hammond-organ, percussion, electronic delay, ring-modulator filters, (1968/1982)
  • Partita II, el-guitar, (1969)
  • Dinosaurus, accordion and tape, (1971)
  • Listen, piano, (1971)
  • OHM, (1971)
  • The Hunting of the Snark, trombone solo, (1975)
  • To One Singing (tekst: P. B. Shelley), tenor and harpe, (1975)
  • Be Not Afeard (tekst: W. Shakespeare), soprano, baryton, chamber ensemble and tape, (1977)
  • Response, organ, 4 percussionists and tape, (1977)
  • Response IV, 4 percussionists and tape, (1977)
  • Clamavi, cello solo, (1980)
  • Partita for Six Double Basses, (1982)
  • Aurora (tekst: Salme 139, Dante), 4 singers, crotali and tape, (1983)
  • Flashing, accordion solo, (1986)
  • Partita für Paul, violin with electronic delay, (1985)
  • Acantus Firmus, jazz vocalist, Hardanger Fiddle and tape, (1987)
  • The Return of the Snark, trombone and tape, (1987)
  • Tractatus, solo flute and chamber ensemble, (1987)
  • Tre Voci (text: F. Petrarca, G. Bruno, G. Ungaretti), soprano and chamber ensemble, (1988)
  • Duplex, violin and viola, (1991)
  • Magic Island (text: W. Shakespeare), soprano, baryton, chamber orchestra and tape, (1992)
  • Suite per violoncello solo, (1996)
  • Three Stanzas, double bass solo, (1998)
  • Strykekvartett, (2001)
  • Solar Plexus (tekst: G. Johannessen (2002)
  • Partita per carillon, (2002)


  • Aurora 4 solo voices, mixed choir, 2 percussion groups and tape, (1983)
  • Music to Two Fragments to Music by Shelley (text: P. B. Shelley), female choir, (1985)
  • Tres Lamentationes (Secundum Hieremiam Prophetam), mixed choir, (1985)

Electro-acoustic music and mixed media

  • Ode til lyset, (1968)
  • Solitaire, (1968)
  • Warszawa, (1968)
  • Pace, (1970)
  • Forbindelser for fem byer (1975)
  • Poly-Poly, based on Lux et tenebrae (1970), electro-acoustic music for the Scandinavian pavilion at the Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan, (1979)
  • Nedstigningen, (1996)

Music for film and TV

  • Læraren (TV) (1963)
  • Klimaks (1965)
  • Stoppested (TV) (1966)
  • En dag i Ivan Denisovitsj' liv (1970)
  • Dagny (1977)
  • I solkorsets tegn (TV) (1981)
  • Forfølgelsen (1981)
  • Ja, vi elsker (1983)
  • Kong Lear (TV) (1985)
  • Stella Polaris (1993)

Discography – selected releases

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  2. "Bio from record label Grappa". Retrieved 2017-02-07.
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  5. Hallgjerd Aksnes, 'Nordheim, Arne', Grove Music Online ed. Laura Macy, article updated 19.04.04,
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  7. "Bio from MIC Music Information Centre Norway". Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  8. "Nordic Council Music Prize winners". Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  9. Kaupanger stave church (Kulturminneløypa) Archived 2011-07-24 at the Wayback Machine
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Preceded by
Espen Skjønberg
Recipient of the Norsk kulturråds ærespris
Succeeded by
Synnøve Anker Aurdal