When Over Cross and Crown was premièred October 1st 1999 by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and Christian Eggen, the gigantic work was received with standing ovations by the audience. This was the conclusion of a 25 year long process, starting off by a commission from Den Norske Opera (The Norwegian Opera) for an opera by John Persen called Under Cross and Crown. It took 10 years to write the opera, with a libretto based on the historic events of the Sàmi revolt in 1852 in northern Norway.
When Persen’s opera was ready, Den Norske Opera refused to stage it, claiming it was un-playable for the orchestra. Persen put the 17 kg score in a black plastic bag under his bed and swore he would never write music that had to be performed by humans ever again. After many years of working with computer-based music, his mind again touched the ill-fated material. Luckily, John Persen (the older) decided to lift the ban that John Persen (the younger) had put on this music. He set to work again on the same basic material, and Over Cross and Crown emerged as an all night orchestral panorama in five movements. 15 years after the opera was finished (still not performed) the present orchestral piece was ready. Then in 2002 the piece was nominated for the Nordic Council’s Music Prize, and preluding this recording by Scandinavia’s no.1 orchestra.
Swedish musicologist Carl Gunnar Åhleen has written a set of very good liner notes for this production, presenting both the story behind the music and this by any standards rather extraordinary man John Persen.