Ultima, Oslo’s festival of contemporary music take place in a number of the Norwegian capital’s performance spaces, including large auditoriums, churches, theatres and art galleries.
This year the theme is Traditions Under Pressure, reflecting ‘the role of modern music in constantly questioning and pushing at the limits of what is familiar to our ears.’ It leaves, no doubt intentionally, quite a bit of interpretive leeway, the result being that the programme is varied and hard to categorise. Not that that should discourage anyone from attending—there’s an awful lot to recommend amongst the 58 events. There are premieres aplenty, including Large Bird Mask, a major new commission from Rolf Wallin on 14th that promises to fill Oslo’s opera house ‘with a twilight chorus of contemporary chamber music inspired by birdsong.’ There is a new version of Lost Rooms, a documentary theatre performance by director Kjetil Skøien and composer Julian Skar. Originally exploring the plight of Balkan refugees, it has been updated to describe the experience of those displaced by the Syrian conflict. On 21st Øystein Wyller Odden’s Kraftbalanse, for piano, alternating current and orchestra is a musical representation of changes in the power grid. The work consists of a self-resonating grand piano that has been tuned to vibrate according to the frequencies emitted by AC current. There is also the opportunity to hear music from the next generation of composers on 19th, with a presentation of music from the European Ulysses platform for emerging young composers and performers and composers from the Norwegian Academy of Music.
Away from the premieres pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard will present Messiaen’s ornithological masterpiece Catalogue d’Oiseauxat three separate Oslo locations during the course of the day. There will be three opportunities to hear Echo Flux, a double-bill examining the relationship between dance and music, the two works on offer being Alban Richard & Sebastian Rivas’ the departed Heart and Ayelen Parolin & Ezra’s Primal. For the sixth year in a row, on 15th the festival will also run a day for children, offering the chance to roam the Sentralen venue playing instruments, watching films, reinterpreting the works of the main programme and much more.