Conductor Juanjo Mena

Juanjo Mena © Michal Novak

Rachmaninoff in Oslo

  1. Variations symphoniques
  2. Piano Concerto No. 2
  3. Symphony No. 1
  1. Juanjo Mena conductor
  2. Nikolai Lugansky piano

In 1918 Sergei Rachmaninoff played his Piano Concerto No. 2 at the National Theatre in Oslo (still called Kristiania at the time) in which Johan Halvorsen conducted the orchestra. Eyvind Alnæs’ Symphonic Variations were played at the same concert. Juanjo Mena also conducts Johan Halvorsen’s Symphony No. 1.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) left Russia in the wake of the Revolution, just before Christmas 1917. He spent most of 1918 touring from a base in Copenhagen. For the concert that was planned to take place in Christiania on 20 April, the programme included his famous Piano Concerto No. 2, but half of the score was lost in transit. Fellow composer Johan Halvorsen (1866–1935), who was to conduct the concert, made himself available to assist in the situation and over the course of a few days and nights the weary composers managed to recreate the notes in time for the orchestra rehearsals. Halvorsen’s efforts made an indelible impression on Rachmaninoff.

One of the other works on the programme at the National Theatre that April evening was Symphonic Variations by Eyvind Alnæs (1872–1932). Alnæs grew up in Fredrikstad and studied in Christiania where he successfully debuted as a composer at just 20 years of age. He studied further in Leipzig and had several of his symphonic works performed there and in Berlin. One of these was his Opus No. 8, written in the 1890s, which had the original title of Variations symphoniques sur un thème original. Alnæs is particularly known for his romances and choral music.

Johan Halvorsen (1864–1932) grew up in Drammen and debuted there as a violin soloist in 1882. After studying and working in a number of countries he returned to Norway in 1893 and became a key figure in the Norwegian music community for the next few decades. He led the National Theatre’s orchestra for 20 years and was one of the Oslo Philharmonic’s first chief conductors. He wrote his three symphonies in the 1920s which were characterised by a National Romantic tonal language and exquisite orchestration. Halvorsen himself conducted the premiere of Symphony No. 1 at the National Theatre in 1923.


  • Adult: 170 - 560 NOK
  • Senior: 170 - 450 NOK
  • Student: 170 - 280 NOK
  • Child: 150 NOK
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