Fifteen years after “Himmelrand – Tusenårsoratoriet”, which Ketil Bjørnstad wrote together with Stein Mehren, Bjørnstad is presenting a new, modern oratorio. This time he has written both the music and the text.
The Nidaros Cathedral Oratorio Choir, under the direction of Petra Bjørkhaug, sings all the choir parts on the album. As in the past, Bjørnstad displays here an impressive ability to choose his musical collaborators. Håkon Kornstad (saxophone and vocals), Tora Augestad (vocals), Anja Lechner (cello) and Birger Mistereggen (percussion) assist the composer, each in his or her own way, in imbuing the work with life and giving it wings.
Tora Augestad juggles several careers in her roles as soprano, conductor and actor. In 2015 she was nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize. She sang in the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir from 2000 to 2005 and with the vocal group Pitsj from 1999 to 2006. She is the vocalist in the ensemble Music for a While, which has released three critically acclaimed albums on the Grappa label. Augestad moved to Berlin in the spring of 2007, and is currently working with some of Europe’s leading ensembles for modern music, including Ensemble Modern and Klangforum Wien. She has been working with the renowned Swiss director Christoph Marthaler since 2009.
Håkon Kornstad had an outstanding career as a jazz saxophonist behind him when he became interested in opera during a stay in New York in 2009. He began taking lessons with singing teachers there, and started studying opera at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2011. He held his debut at the Norwegian National Opera in February 2012 in the role of Il Podesta in a student production of Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera.
German cellist Anja Lechner studied with Jan Polasek, Heinrich Schiff and Janos Starker. In 1992 she was a co-founder of the now disbanded Rosamunde Quartet, which achieved a major international breakthrough, toured extensively, and released a number of critically acclaimed records on the ECM label. Lechner has also worked with improvisation for a long time in a variety of contexts and traditions. Her interest in Tango Nuevo has resulted in a close collaboration with bandeonist Dino Saluzzi. She has also collaborated with Misha Alperin and Mark Feldman, and contributed to Bjørnstad’s album “La Notte” on the ECM label.
Percussionist Birger Mistereggen was educated at the Norwegian Academy of Music (1992), where he also specialised in Norwegian folk music (2001). He played for many years with Ophelia Ragtime Orchestra and is currently a member of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. He collaborated with Trio Mediæval on the album “Folk Songs” (ECM, 2005). He was the drummer and an associated member of the group Vamp from 2008 to 2009, playing on the album “St. Mandag” and joining the group on their subsequent tour.
The Nidaros Cathedral Oratorio Choir refers to itself as a choir suited to major events. With 90 singers, the choir fills the cathedral with powerful, monumental church music works. The choir collaborates regularly with institutions such as the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and the St Olav Festival. Precentor Petra Bjørkhaug studied to be a music teacher and a precentor at the Trøndelag Music Conservatory from 1983 to 1993. She is engaged as the precentor of the Nidaros Cathedral and of the Church of Our Lady, and has taught organ improvisation, church music performance and methodology at the Department of Music at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Composer and pianist Ketil Bjørnstad must be regarded as one of Norway’s most productive artists. His list of accomplishments is impressive, and he is a prize-winning author and musician. He has a large audience both in Norway and abroad. Up to now he has managed to publish more than 40 books, and has released over 60 records in a variety of genres.
The concert recording from the Nidaros Cathedral was made by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), and was later mixed by Jan Erik Kongshaug at Rainbow Studio. The album was produced by Ketil Bjørnstad.