It is Schaathun's conviction that we need music that appeals to differents parts of ourselves. He rarely finds a piece of music that contains everything – this doesn't bother him much, though.
For the Oslo Philharmonic's concert on 31st March, he has picked music that for him spreads out on a spectrum from concise and clear to emotional and excessive. He dubs the composers on the first end of the spectrum understaters writing "dry" music, and those on the other end overstaters writing "wet" music.
− In my opinion, this is a very fertile way of organizing music, says Asbjørn Schaathun, who will lead the concert from stage with comments and musical illustrations.
− This perspective may clear up the listening experience. The listener might get a better understanding of what is heard and what the composer is actually trying to communicate.
See programme and buy tickets: Schaathuns skattkammer
Boulez' music made a deep impression
Schaathun is today professor of composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. He studied at the Academy himself before further studies in London and later Paris. There he studied and worked at IRCAM, a centre of musical science and composition.
IRCAM was led by the legendary composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, who died earlier this year − undoubtedly one of the "understaters". His music made a deep impression on Schaathun, not least Eclat which features in this week's program:
− In this work I encountered new gestures and harmonies and an explosive energy. It gave me goosebumps. Boulez conjured up a soundscape unlike anything I had heard before, characterized by great precision.
− Composers like Mahler and Boulez cover different areas
Schaathun's own work in the concert is the piano concerto "Nations", premiered with piano and electronics in 2014. This time pianist Ingfrid Breie Nyhus, soloist on both occations, will perform it with orchestra for the first time. Schaathun places his own work in the middle of the spectrum between “dry” and “wet” music:
− A symphony orchestra is able to play with great precision, and I've tried to make use of this by using exact notation. At the same time, I built in an element of Norwegian folk music, which is an oral tradition.
A composer Schaathun unquestionably places among the "overstaters" is Gustav Mahler, who aimed to pour his whole world of experience into his symphonies. Marianne Beate Kielland sings two songs by Mahler, "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" and "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen".
− Mahler dwelled on excess. He could take the simplest children's tune and orchestrate it out of proportion. In this we find elements of both deep irony and deep pain.
The concert programme also offers a taste of Schönberg and Stravinskij, two composers that could move towards both precision and excess in their works.
− Composers like Mahler and Boulez cover different areas and in combination constitute important parts of the marvellous heritage of classical music. I, for one, am very happy that both these soundscapes exist, Schaathun concludes.