“I often walk around with this music in my head”

On her new album with the Oslo Philharmonic, Tora Augestad sings one of her favourite works of all time.

Written by Fred-Olav Vatne

Tora Augestad sings music by Kurt Weill, Charles Ives and Marcus Paus on her new album with the Oslo Philharmonic (Photo: Thomas Kolbein Bjørk Olsen)

Tora Augestad met American conductor Joshua Weilerstein a few years ago, when they performed Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs with the Oslo Philharmonic. They quickly found common ground:

“I mentioned to Joshua that Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins was one of my favourites,” says Tora Augestad.

“He said it was one of his favourites, too. So that was the beginning of this project.”

The Seven Deadly Sins is a key work on the new album Portraying Passion. Tora Augestad fell in love with Kurt Weill’s music at an early age:

“When I was 17, I sang one of his songs for the first time, and it was love at first note.”

Augestad has later perfomed in Weill’s “Threepenny Opera” in Germany and even started a band named in honor of the composer, Music for a while.

“The Seven Deadly Sins has always been at the top of my wish list. I’ve only performed it a few times, but I often walk around with this music in my head.”

“I feel that bittersweetness in the music”

Conductor Joshua Weilerstein also has a very strong connection to Kurt Weill’s music:

“My grandparents lived in Vienna, and like Weill they had to flee from Europe to the US, just a short time after Weill left. They had much in common, there was a certain bittersweetness about the Jewish generation that left Germany and Austria. I feel that bittersweetness in the music.”

Weilerstein praises Tora Augestads approach to the music:

“I love how she combines singing operatically and like a cabaret singer. If this music is sung too operatically, you lose the satire, and if it’s sung too much like cabaret, the satire is too obvious.”

“One of the best composers of his generation”

Another piece on the new album is composed especially for Tora Augestad: “Hate Songs” by Norwegian composer Marcus Paus, based on poems by Dorothy Parker.

“Marcus Paus is one of the best composers of his generation and this is a fabolous piece,” Tora Augestad says.

“There are so many different moods and qualities in this work, even a beautiful love song. It has a lot in common with The Seven Deadly Sins, and I thought these two pieces would be great together.”

The new album also includes music by the American composer Charles Ives. There are several links between the works:

“Charles Ives’ five songs are orchestrated by John Adams, a composer that Marcus Paus is influenced by. And since The Seven Deadly Sins takes place in the US, we thought it would be a good idea to include an American composer and an American poet as well,” Tora Augestad concludes.

Listen to the new album: Portraying Passion

Portraying Passion is released by Lawo Classics and can be purchased on their website. In addition to Tora Augestad, Joshua Weilerstein and the Oslo Philharmonic, conductor Christian Eggen and soloists  Magnus Staveland, Torbjørn Gulbrandsøy, Halvor F. Melien and Olle Holmgren also appears on the album.