After a one and a half hour journey from Bergen airport the “Hardangerfjord Express Boat” sails into harbour – a small village set in a green valley below the dramatic mountains that rise steeply behind it.
Here in 1661 Ludwig Rosenkrantz and his young wife Karen began to create a lavish manor house and garden which they called Rosendal and, in 1678, their estate was to be given the unique status of the only Barony in Norway by King Christian V of Denmark and Norway. Today the house and its beautifully kept gardens offer visitors a glimpse of Norwegian history in one of the country’s most spectacular natural settings.
For pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, this is the perfect location for a new chamber music festival which he launched in August 2016 together with the inauguration of a new concert hall at Baroniet Rosendal Manor House and Gardens. Alongside performances in the manor house itself, the four day festival features concerts on the new stage – a concert hall with 400 seats, converted from an original barn on the estate. Additional evening concerts take place in the white-washed 13th century Kvinnherad church whilst lectures and open discussions are offered during the day.
Leif Ove Andsnes has been a regular visitor and performer in Rosendal for over 20 years. His first concert was in 1992 and since 1995 he has performed at the manor house at least once every summer. “Baroniet Rosendal is a very special place” he commented “and music has been a part of its cultural life for generations. Its incredible to think that artists and musicians have been crossing the fjord for over three hundred years and amongst them were apparently both Edvard Grieg and Ole Bull – our Bergen musical legends.”
The “Great Hall” (Riddersalen) at Rosendal is one of the most intimate venues in the world to offer an optimum environment for musical enjoyment with acoustical enhancement from a Constellation system provided by Meyer Sound of Berkeley, California.
Constellation instantly transforms the elongated barn – a structure never intended to serve as a concert hall – into an acoustical space ideal for hosting chamber music. The main challenge with Riddersalen lies in the dimensions of the building, which is long enough but too narrow and lacking in sufficient volume to function acoustically for chamber music. By applying advanced acoustic engineering coupled with the latest in high-resolution digital signal processing, Constellation widens the perceived aural space and creates a rich, immersive acoustical ambience.
Constellation does not directly amplify the instruments. Instead, it captures the natural acoustical environment of the hall and subtly modifies the surrounding acoustical characteristics. The entire reverberation envelope can be precisely tailored to the acoustical requirements of the performance.
“Experiencing Constellation for the first time opened my eyes and ears. I really had to rethink a lot of my perceptions – when I heard how excellent it sounded and how the acoustic could be transformed, I said to myself…this is the future.” Leif Ove Andsnes
“It was amazing … The possibilities seem limitless” Christian Tetzlaff
The Constellation system at Riddersalen has three basic components. Thirty-four microphones are spaced around the hall to sense the natural ambient acoustics. The microphone signals are sent to a sophisticated, high-resolution digital signal processing system which applies patented computer algorithms to create enhanced acoustical characteristics. The output signals are sent to 145 small loudspeakers spaced around the room, which together emulate the effect of reflective surfaces placed at the ideal distance and angles from the musical performance.
The Constellation system was specified by the acoustical consulting firm of Brekke & Strand and installed by systems integrator Bright Norway. Design and calibration was led by John Pellowe of Meyer Sound’s own Constellation team in collaboration with Brekke and Strand.
Other Constellation systems in Norway are now in use at the Fosnavåg Konserthus and the Peer Gynt Hall of Grieghallen in Bergen. In fact, it was the Fosnavåg Konserthus that inspired Leif Ove Andsnes to investigate Constellation for Rosendal: “Experiencing Constellation for the first time opened my eyes and ears, I really had to rethink a lot of my perceptions – when I heard how excellent it sounded and how the acoustic could be transformed, I said to myself…this is the future.”
Elsewhere in the world, Constellation creates acoustical ambience for the Svetlanov Hall in Moscow, San Francisco Symphony’s SoundBox, and Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.
Meyer Sound systems can be found in concert halls, opera houses, and museums all over the world. Major cultural institutions using a variety of Meyer Sound systems for voice and incidental music reinforcement include the Musikverein in Vienna, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and Konzerthaus Berlin.
“With Constellation, the Meyers have thus had a democratizing influence, allowing ensembles to obtain pleasing results in problematic spaces. They have helped to make classical music a more mobile, adaptable beast, one that is freer to roam the entire cultural landscape. A mirage of the Musikverein can arise almost anywhere, with a few swipes on a screen.” Alex Ross, Music Critic – The New Yorker
From 9 – 12 August 2018 the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, founded by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes on the west coast of Norway, will take place for the third time with a focus on music in the shadow of the Great War. Joining Andsnes on stage will be Matthias Goerne (baritone), Anna Prohaska (soprano), Kirill Gerstein, Bertrand Chamayou, Eric Schneider, Ingrid Andsnes (piano), Henning Kraggerud, Akiko Suwanai, Johan Dalene (violin), Lars Anders Tomter (viola), Edgar Moreau (cello), the Dover String Quartet, Andreas Ottensammer (clarinet), Guy Eshed (flute), Sivan Magen (harp) and Tim Gibbs (double bass).
Introducing this year’s programme, Leif Ove Andsnes commented “The early 20th century was one of the most extraordinary periods in music with an enormous variety of new musical styles which burst onto the scene. Over four days the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival will focus on the years 1914 – 1918, exploring a poignant and diverse legacy of music which was written by composers – either in reaction to or in spite of the war that raged around them.”
The programme includes Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale Suite which was premiered in the last months of World War One and Ravel’s La Valse, widely seen as a metaphor for the predicament of European civilisation in the aftermath of war. Interlaced throughout are works which all have their unique story and voice; Janacek’s expressionistic Violin Sonata which echoes the sounds of bombs in the last movement; Vaughan Williams’ post-romantic and life-affirming Lark Ascending; Ravel’s neo-classical Le Tombeau de Couperin, dedicated to the memory of friends who died fighting; and the pure folk-song settings of Armenian composer Komitas, who was arrested and deported to a prison camp in 1915 by the Ottoman government.
One complete programme is dedicated to Debussy who bridged the gap between the 19th and 20th centuries like no-other. His death occurred in the midst of the aerial and artillery bombardment of Paris during the German Spring Offensive in 1918 and his funeral procession made its way through deserted streets as the German guns bombarded the city.
Whilst the instrumental concerts focus almost entirely on music written during the years of World War I, Rosendal welcomes two singers who present their own unique programmes reflecting similar themes. Soprano, Anna Prohaska, performs from “Behind the Lines”, her moving collection of songs set to war-time poetry by composers including Eisler, Quilter, Weill and Ives. Matthias Goerne returns to Rosendal to join Leif Ove Andsnes for a performance of Schubert’s Winterreise, bringing us back to the composer focus of the first Rosendal Festival in 2016 and the song cycle which epitomises isolation and loneliness.
As part of the concept for the festival, Professor Gunnar Danbolt will curate a two-part exhibition focusing on reactions to World War One in painting and another on the work of Håkon Bleken, born in Trondheim, 1948. Håkon Bleken is an artist who is not only interested in problems relating to form, in a modernistic manner – though these are important for him – but who also has given particular attention to existential questions, often given actuality through contemporary events and happenings. He was, for example, one of the first to reflect in painting on the massacre at Utøya. He is often inspired by literature, such as Henrik Ibsen and Thomas Mann, and by music. He is, therefore, an artist well suited for a festival with the title «In the Shadow of War». In addition, paintings created as reactions to the First World War will also be exhibited – admittedly not originals, but nevertheless good copies – such as one of the most shocking war paintings of World War One, namely Otto Dix’s The War (1932) and Per Krohg’s The Grenade (1916). Together, these exhibitions will accompany the music that will be performed, an accompaniment that will hopefully promote reflection and deeper understanding. There will be pre-concert talks and lectures by Astrid Kvalbein, Erling Sandmo, Gunnar Danbolt and John Pellowe.
The Rosendal Chamber Music Festival extends deep thanks to the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation, whose meaningful financial support has made the festival’s ambitious artistic goals attainable.
The 4 day experience of this music festival is indescribable. With the backdrop of such wonderful scenery, the festival is somehow augmented by a deeper concentration of the theme and the high level of performance. It is impressive.
Summa summarum har Leif Ove Andsnes funnet en usedvanlig spennende stall av musikere, og det er nærmest absurd å tenke at disse samles på et lite sted som Baroniet Rosendal.
“In addition to the intelligence of its programming and the high level of its performers, the festival benefits from what is often lacking in the most exclusive of locations: authenticity and atmosphere - truly magical.”
“Rosendal simply must be experienced”
“This is a Utopian place for Utopian musicians.”
“I langhelga som var, ble det staselige Baroniet i Rosendals intenst vakre landskap fylt av musikk. Og ikke en hvilken som helst musikk, men av kammermusikk av ypperste slag.”
“Med den nye salen og Andsnes drivkraft og stjernestatus har Rosendal Kammermusikk fått en pangstart. “
“Mozart in paradise … Leif Ove Andsnes and a group of extraordinary musicians immersed themselves in the genius of the composer in a small but big festival in the wilds of Norway.”
“Rosendalfestivalen solgte ut alle billetene på et par dager i vinter. Oppskriften er enkel: Kammermusikalsk kjernestoff, uten sviskeappell og med et modig innslag av samtidsmusikk.”
“Intelligent formidling og enestående musikere får den klassiske musikken til å skinne i Rosendal”
“A Festival which is both intimate and full of character, idyllic and with depth.”
The Rosendal Chamber Music Festival extends deep thanks to Stiftelsen Kristian Gerhard Jebsen, whose meaningful financial support has made the festival’s ambitious artistic goals attainable.