Norwegians would. And did. Why can't your country?

Norwegians would. And did. Why can't your country?


norman lebrecht

December 06, 2011

The discussion on orchestral growth in Norway has underlined the importance of rising government investment in the performing arts. It seems to be paying off in wider public involvement and rising international prestige. A country of less than five million gets noticed for its musical stars.

My friend Mona Levin, editor of Norways Klassisk magazine, has settled the question of how many orchestras there are in her country. There are eight symphony-sized professional orchestras:

Oslo Phil

Bergen Phil

Trondheim Symph

Stavanger Symph

Kristiansand Symph (in the south)

NOSO – Tromsø Symph and opera orch (in the north)

The Opera Orchestra Oslo

The NRK Radio Orchestra

Several of these orchestras have musicians in smaller classical ensembles, like TrondheimSolistene (plays with Mutter), contemporary ensembles like BIT20Ensemble (Bergen), Det Norske Kammerorkester (based in Oslo and house orchestra at Risør Chamber Music Festival), Stavanger has a smaller ensemble specializing in old music. There is also the Oslo Sinfonietta, contemporary.

Mona asks:  ‘Why does a small country like this have such musical development? In my opinion, it’s because we got there so late. Our Accademy of Music dates from 1973, our Opera from 1958. The same institutions in our neighbouring countries are more than 200 years old, even 300. It’s taken a long time for Norwegians to accept that culture is important and worth something in our lives, and that it costs something to educate artists, to keep up the quality of the musicians in the orchestra. Then there’s the Andsnes effect, the Truls Mørk effect. And of course Mariss Jansons who made the government understand why “a full symphony orchestra” was a necessity.’


  • The magazine on the picture is not the Norwegian magazine, but the Danish classical music magazine with the same name. In Denmark we also (still) have at least 6 professional orchestras even though we are a much smaller country when it comes to area.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    What about music education in Norwegian schools? How is it and could that be a factor?

  • René Mathiesen says:

    Take a look at Finland…
    15 Professional Symphony Orchestras -8 Chamber orchestras and semi-professional orchestras
    with the same population as Norway and Denmark

  • True, Finland is way ahead of Norwegians in the number of professional symphony orchestras. And our musical culture is much older than theirs (as they admit)…

    • Seppo Saari says:

      As René wrote, there are many good symphony orchestras in Finland.
      As to music education, I had a brief week to make myself acquainted with Högskole i Bergen (HiB).
      I got the impression that they have a good program in training class teachers for public schools, whereas in Finland the music education in public schools has been suffering from severe cuts. The same goes for teacher training in the universitites – unfortunately.