Violinist Henning Kraggerud on the importance of improvisation

The Norwegian musician believes that the art of improvisation is ignored by too many of today's performers - and that encores present the perfect opportunity to refine this skill

Henning Kraggerud

‘Once during a tour I realised that I had forgotten to prepare an encore so I decided instead to trust in my ability to improvise straight from the heart. It worked out so well that I often now improvise as an introduction to the main pieces in my concert programmes. I take the harmonic progression from the central work, or any other appropriate elements, and improvise over them. In this way I’m not just performing the work of the composer – I’m a co-creator.


I believe improvisation is too often overlooked by musicians today and we are deploying only a fraction of our creative powers. Chopin, Mozart, Paganini, Grieg and most of the best artists of the past developed incredibly rapidly as both players and composers using this source of inspiration.

Our reverence for classical repertoire can sometimes feel a bit like a fundamental religion. Because Encores form a less regulated part of the concert programme, they therefore present the opportunity for greater creativity.’

Photo: Robert Romik


BBC Music Magazine’s April 2022 issue features an article on the uneven history of encores.