Norway's best chamber festivals

If you're heading North this year, says Neil McKim, then Norway has more than its fair share of chamber music festivals. Here's five of the best
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Risør, 23-28 June
Although it is 'in the south’ by Norwegian standards, the Risør Chamber Music Festival manages to mix the beautiful south-eastern coastal scenery with one of the most heavyweight chamber line-ups you will find in Norway. With pianist Leif Ove Andsnes at the joint helm, it’s no surprise that this summer’s billing will include Dutch mezzo Christianne Stotijn, Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili, and Norway’s cellist Truls Mørk.

Since its creation in 1991, Risør’s festival has grown to include four concerts a day and the venues now spill over to the picturesque Stangelholmen Island. This small coastal city, with its white wooden houses and surrounding forests will leave a lasting impression. See www.kammermusikkfest.no

Lofoten, 6-12 July
Hailed as the ‘world’s most beautiful music festival', Lofoten’s International Chamber Music Festival is Norway’s northernmost chamber music festival. The Lofoten Islands sit comfortably within the Arctic Circle and boast breathtaking mountain vistas, white beaches and midnight sun during festival time.

This year’s programme will celebrate the anniversaries of Haydn and Mendelssohn but also promises to introduce some hitherto unknown composers. In the wooden timbered venues join concerts by pianists Cristina Ortiz and Anton Kuerti and the Grieg Trio. For those wishing to catch the Northern Lights there will be a special winter festival in early 2010, from February 11-14. See www.lofotenfestival.no

Bodø, 31 July-9 August
High on the mainland of Norway is the Bodø-based Nordland Music Festival. With a mountain-top opening concert on the Keiservarden, this festival blends striking scenery with a carefully programmed mix of classical and contemporary artists (See BBC Music Magazine, Musical Destinations, July).

Highlights for 2009 will be the Brodsky Quartet and Swedish trombonist/conductor Christian Lindberg. Keep an eye on Radio 3’s schedules later this year, as Fiona Talkington will be covering this year’s events. Some of the Nordland Music Festival will be coming to London in October (15-17) for a series of concerts at Cadogan Hall. See www.nmfu.no and www.cadoganhall.com

Oslo, 14-22 August
Norway’s thriving capital is a first-stop for most travellers arriving in Norway and it has its own world-class Chamber Music Festival, which uses the city’s Akershus Castle as its centre. Running for 20 years, the chamber festival draws from top international talent and counts Norway’s Queen Sonja as a patron.

Last year’s festival boasted a line-up including Jordi Savall on viola da gamba, the BBC Magazine Award winning Pavel Haas Quartet, and the Leipzig String Quartet. Many of the capital’s musical locations are featured at festival time including: parts of the old university with its Munch paintings; a pick of the city's finest churches; and the recently opened contemporary performance space, the Parkteatret Scene. The festival also makes use of the incredibly striking Norwegian Opera house. See www.oslokammermusikkfestival.no

Trondheim, 21-27 September
The historic city of Trondheim is located in central Norway and is home to Nidaros Cathedral, the world’s most northern medieval cathedral. Despite numerous past fires, many of its traditional wooden houses and distinctive waterside wharves still survive intact. The city is home to the Trondheim Soloists, who play a central role in the annual Trondheim Chamber Music Festival and this year they are joined by Osvaldo Golijov, who steps in as festival composer, following in the esteemed footsteps of Steve Reich and George Crumb.

Running alongside the festival is the fifth Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition for string quartets that will be running from 22-26 September. This is fiercely competitive with winners receiving a €12,000 first prize and an appearance at next year’s festival. Upcoming on the UK scene, the Sacconi Quartet, won in 2005. For details of the festival see www.kamfest.no and for the competition see www.ticc.no
 

Image: Neil McKim