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:
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.’