Terje Tønnesen

1. Violin 1st Concertmaster

− What gives me the most pleasure in my work as a musician, is having a musical idea.

Terje Tønnesen
  • Member since: 1983
  • Born: 1955 in Oslo
  • Education: Studied with Kaare Sæther in Oslo and Max Rostal in Switzerland.
  • Solo work: Solo debut 1972 in Oslo. Many soloist performances with orchestras in Norway and abroad, not least with The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, where he has also collaborated with, amongst others, Mstislav Rostropovich, James Galway and Maurice André. Solo concertos with Oslo Philharmonic: Beethoven, Chausson, Mozart, Wieniawski, Linde, Brahms, Sibelius, Bach, Sjostakovitsj, Rihm, Svendsen and Janson (world premiere performance).
  • Recordings: Solo: Grieg’s violin sonatas; Shostakovich: Violin concerto no. 2; Vivaldi: The Four Seasons with The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (Simax 2005). For other recordings with The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, see www.detnorskekammerorkester.no
  • Awards: The Norwegian Critics’ Award, The Grieg Award.
  • Other: Founding member of The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra in 1977, leader of the orchestra from the beginning until now. Honorary leader of Swedish ensemble Camerata Nordica. Also active as composer and arranger, and has composed incidental music for Oslo’s New Theatre.

Terje Tønnesen grew up in Skedsmo, with a grandfather who was an amateur violinist. He gave Terje his first violin and arranged violin lessons for him at Veitvet Music School in Oslo. In his teens he became convinced that he wanted to pursue music:

− At the age of fifteen I found my decisive inspiration to become a musician during an orchestra course in Elverum run by NASOL, Norske Symfoniorkestres Landsforbund, he says.

He had an experience already in the following year which remains his most vivid memory with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra:

− The greatest experience I have had as a musician in the orchestra, was when I at the age of sixteen took part in performing Verdi’s Requiem in Trefoldighetskirken.

In the same year he won the first prize in a violin competition in Lausanne, Switzerland, and in 1972, at seventeen, he made a big impression on both the audience and music critics with his concert debut in the University Aula. For the next five years he studied with Max Rostal in Berne.

Meeting Rostropovich was inspiring

In 1977 Terje was part of establishing The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, for which he has since been Artistic Director, for twenty of those years together with Iona Brown. In 1983 he was engaged as First Concertmaster in the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.

He is also honorary leader for the Kalmar-based ensemble Camerata Nordica, and he has played with some of the legendary performers of classical music, among them the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich:

− Meeting and playing with Rostropovich was a big inspiration. He must be one of the individuals who has had the biggest influence on me as a musician, as have my “violin idols” Isaac Stern and Jascha Heifetz.

Through his work as an orchestra leader and inspirational source, countless solo performances with his own and other orchestras, and a string of recordings and awards, Terje has achieved a unique position in Norwegian music life. In 2015 he was named a Knight of the Order of St Olav for his contribution. He still enjoys finding new angles to approaching music:

− What gives me the most pleasure in my work as a musician, is having a musical idea.

He writes music for the theatre and enjoys working with musicians of other genres, but his favourite composers are to be found in the core classical repertoire:

− I can never escape Bach and Beethoven.

When he is isn’t playing, Terje enjoys painting, carpentry and reading books, as well as physical activity and a beer or two.