Ketil Bjørnstad — Sunrise: A Cantata On Texts By Edvard Munch (2014)

Ketil Bjørnstad — Sunrise: A Cantata On Texts By Edvard Munch (2014)

Ketil Bjørnstad — Sunrise: A Cantata On Texts By Edvard Munch

•   A classically trained jazz pianist with a bent toward avant–garde improvised music, Ketil Bjørnstad is a well–known musician and writer in Europe.
••   “Sunrise” is based on Munch’s texts, in which the artist vacillates between a destructive perception and a reconciliation with life and light. The premier performance of Soloppgang was in the University of Oslo Aula in 2011.
Born: April 25, 1952 in Oslo, Norway
Location: Oslo, Norway
Album release: May 2014
Recorded: April 2012
Record Label: ECM
Duration:     78:43
01 En rovfugl har satt seg fast i mitt indre (A Bird Of Pray is Clinging to My Inner Being)    7:26
02 Moren  (The Mother)     6:12
03 Intet er lite (Nothing is Small)     4:54
04 Jorden elskede luften (The Earth Loved the Air)     4:29
05 Resitativ I (Recitative I)     1:00
06 Stupet (The Cliff)     5:23
07 Som i en kirke (As If They Were in a Eclésias)     5:23
08 Intermezzo I     1:49
09 Livets dans (The Dance of Life)     4:59
10 Åpent vindu (Open Window)     4:32
11 Resitativ II (Recitative II)     0:58
12 Adskillelsen (The Separation)     5:48
13 Intermezzo II     4:09
14 Gravsten (Gravestone)     4:00
15 Resitativ III (Recitative III)     0:51
16 Alfa og Omega (Alpha and Omega)     5:23
17 De fineste nerver er rammet (The Most Delicate Nerves Are Affected)      4:17
18 Intermezzo III     1:44
19 Soloppgang (Sunrise)     5:16
•   Kari Bremnes vocal
•   Aage Kvalbein cello
•   Matias Bjørnstad alto saxophone
•   Bjørn Kjellemyr bass
•   Hans–Kristian Kjos Sørensen percussion
•   Ketil Bjørnstad piano
•   Oslo Chamber Choir
•   Egil Fossum conductor
ρ•ð   Edvard Munch was born on Engelaug farm in Løten, 140 km north of the capital Kristiania (now Oslo). His father, Christian Munch, worked there as a military doctor. Christian Munch was introduced to Edvard’s mother, Laura Cathrine Bjølstad, by a colleague in Elverum. They married in 1861, and had two children while living in Løten: Sophie and Edvard.
ρ•ð   When Edvard was born on 12 December 1863, he seemed weak and was baptised at home; the baptism was confirmed in Løten church four months later. Before Edvard turned one, the family moved to Kristiania, but they kept in touch with the family at Engelaug. ... ...
ρ•ð   In his will, Munch left all his artwork that was in his own possession to Oslo municipality. During the last years of his life, Munch made several unflinchingly revealing self–portraits, showing an old man facing death.
ρ•ð   In 1942, four of Munch’s paintings were shown in the exhibition ‘Art and Not. Clean–up April 1942’ (‘Kunst og ukunst. Oppryddingen april 1942’) in the National Gallery. That year, Munch also exhibited his work in Gothenburg, and 34 of his prints were shown at the Brooklyn Museum in New York from December to February.
ρ•ð   In 1943, Munch continued to have great capacity for work, and he celebrated his 80th birthday in December.
ρ•ð   Edvard Munch died quietly at Ekely on 23 January 1944.
ρ•ð   Munch left approximately 1,000 paintings, 15,400 prints, 4,500 watercolours, drawings and six sculptures, as well as writings and literary notes to the City of Oslo.

ρ•ð   Ketil Bjørnstad, pianist, composer, improviser... and also novelist, poet and essayist, was described by The Guardian as “a cultural prodigy”. Prolific in his multi–discipline activities, he has released more than 50 albums and published 40 books. Bjørnstad has been an ECM recording artist since 1993 when his album Water Stories was issued. Other ECM recordings include The Sea, The River, The Sea II, Epigraphs, Life In Leipzig, The Light — Songs of Love and Fear, Remembrance, Night Song, Vinding’s Music and La notte. Among his best–known books internationally is his acclaimed 1993 fictionalised biography of Edvard Munch.
••   Ketil Bjørnstad previously explored the life of Edvard Munch in his acclaimed 1993 novel Historien om Edvard Munch. In the same period he also collaborated with singer Kari Bremnes on the album Løsrivelse, based around Munch texts. When invited to compose music for choir in 2011, Bjørnstad’s thoughts turned once again to Munch and to the writings, still not widely known, of the proto–Expressionist Norwegian painter. With these as his guide, Bjørnstad shaped Soloppgang (“Sunrise”) subtitled “A cantata on texts by Edvard Munch”.
••   In his liner notes, Bjørnstad observes that “the texts written by Munch can be compared to his paintings in their power and intensity. Texts from different periods in Munch’s life have been used in Sunrise. Munch always wrote something about his motifs before painting them. These were often short prose texts describing the subject matter he envisioned for the picture. His prose style was heavily influenced by August Strindberg and the Norwegian anarchist and writer Hans Jæger. He produced modern, often crudely crafted pieces of writing that had a sketch–like quality, but that he would repeatedly re–edit. He worked on several ideas for novels, and wrote a number of short stories. They all portray existentialist dilemmas: surviving or being destroyed, believing or observing.”
••   The changing moods of the writings inspire very different musical settings. Kari Bremnes appears as solo vocalist in several pieces. Eight of the sections of the cantata include the Oslo Chamber Choir as well as Ketil’s hand–picked group of players, some of them familiar to ECM listeners. (Bjørn Kjellemyr, who also played on Bjørnstad’s first ECM album Water Stories, has been bassist for the very different groups of Terje Rypdal and Rolf Lislevand, while percussionist Hans–Kristian Kjos Sørensen can be heard on recordings with Christian Wallumrød and Misha Alperin.)
••   Sunrise was released first in Norway in November 2013 — in connection with the 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth — and met with a most positive critical reception. “Kari Bremnes is a formidable Munch interpreter,” wrote Norway’s Audophile. It’s almost as if she goes into a special mode in these songs ... Sunrise is a wonderful production that joins the ranks of Ketil Bjørnstad’s vast range of good and interesting releases.”
••   Bjørnstad has indeed been a prolific creator, with more than 50 albums and 40 books to his name. The Oslo–born pianist, composer, improviser, novelist, poet and essayist, described by The Guardian as “a cultural prodigy”, has been an ECM recording artist since 1993 when his Water Stories album was issued. Other ECM recordings include The Sea, The River, The Sea II, Epigraphs, Life In Leipzig, The Light — Songs of Love and Fear, Remembrance, Night Song, Vinding’s Music — Songs From The Alder Thicket, and most recently La notte, his Antonioni–inspired project recorded live at the Molde Jazz Festival. Further recordings with Ketil Bjørnstad are in preparation.
••   Kari Bremnes was born in Svolvær, and studied at the University of Oslo. She worked as a journalist before dedicating herself fully to music. She has released fifteen albums of her own, as well as a number of collaborative recordings. Last year Kari Bremnes joined Bjornstad for performances of Munch songs at London’s Purcell Room, prompting Jazz Journal to write, “Bremnes’ lucid, soulfully pitched phrasing delivered the direct and often very moving lyrics of love and death, longing, belonging and loss with consummate poetic understanding — and, where needed, controlled drama.”
••   The Oslo Chamber Choir was founded in 1984 by Grete Pedersen. The choir is noted for its quality, flexibility and an ability to combine and switch between different genres, such as classical, Nordic contemporary music and folk music. Its innovative exploration of the Norwegian song tradition has earned the choir recognition at home and abroad.
Artist Biography by Matt Collar
••   A classically trained jazz pianist with a bent toward avant–garde improvised music, Ketil Bjørnstad is a well–known musician and writer in Europe. With his cerebral, atmospheric style that belies a palpable inner passion and an inclination toward genre-crossing compositions, Bjørnstad helped develop and popularize the "European jazz" aesthetic. He is also a writer and poet and has published over 30 works beginning with his 1972 poetry collection Alone. Born in Oslo, Norway, Bjørnstad studied classical piano in London and Paris before making his debut in 1969 at age 16 with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra playing Béla Bartók’s third piano concerto. Surrounded by the vibrant arts scene in Olso during the ‘70s, Bjørnstad became interested in jazz and developing his own style of music. Citing an array of influences from Bach and Ravel to Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, Bjørnstad began working in an improvised idiom. In 1973, he released his debut album Åpning featuring what would become a core group of longtime associates in drummer Jon Christensen, guitarist Terje Rypdal, and bassist Arild Andersen. The album would be the first of several outings Bjørnstad would record for Phillips. Over the years, Bjørnstad’s particular mix of jazz, classical, folk, and rock music would become highly influential in the development of what became known as “European jazz.” Although he has become well–associated with the premier European jazz label ECM, he did not record for the label until later in his career with 1993’s Water Stories, 1994’s The Sea, 1997’s The River, and 1998’s The Sea II. In 2000, Bjørnstad released the duo album Epigraphs with cellist David Darling on ECM. That same year, he composed the millennium oratorio “Himmel Rand,” featuring the texts of the poet Stein Mehren. In 2002, he released the cinematic soundscape album Before the Light on Universal. In 2004, Bjørnstad released the rock–oriented Seafarer’s Song featuring his ensemble with vocalist Kristin Asbjornsen. Four years later, he returned to ECM for the concert album Live in Leipzig with guitarist Rypdal. In 2008, Bjørnstad once again worked with drummer Christensen as well as tenor saxophonist Tore Brunborg for the ECM release Remembrance. In 2011, Bjørnstad delivered the duo album Night Song with cellist Svante Henryson on ECM. The pianist, who is also a published poet, novelist, and essayist, has stated that the Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni was one of his greatest influences; to that end, he composed a series of works meant to act as "a soundtrack to an inner film." Recording with bassist Arild Andersen percussionist Marilyn Mazur, cellist Anja Lechner, Eivind Aarset on guitar and electronics, and saxophonist Andy Sheppard, Bjørnstad released the live suite, La Notte in the late spring of 2013. (

BY PETER BACON on 10 MAY 2014 •
Munch Museum:
•••                                                                                                                                               Discography:
1990: The Shadow (KKV), poems by John Donne, (1562–1626)
1993: Water Stories (ECM)
1995: The Sea (ECM)
1996: The River (ECM)
1998: The Sea II (Grappa/ECM)
2000: Epigraphs (ECM)
2001: Grace (Emarcy), poems by John Donne, 1562–1626
2003: The Nest (Emarcy), poems by Harte Crane, 1899–1932
2004: Seafarer’s Song (Universal Jazz)
2006: Floating (Emarcy)
2008: Life in Leipzig (ECM), with Terje Rypdal
2009: Remembrance (ECM)
2013: La Notte (ECM)
2014: Sunrise — A cantata on texts by Edvard Munch (ECM)


Ketil Bjørnstad Sunrise: A Cantata On Texts By Edvard Munch (2014)