Oslo Philharmonic mounted a musical raid on Aker Brygge
Heavy rain-clouds over Oslo threatened to make Hydro's free concert with the Oslo Philharmonic an occasion merely for weather-beaten types, but turnout at Aker Brygge on Saturday afternoon clearly testified to the initiative having broad popular appeal, despite the weather.
It was difficult to establish with any certainty how many people actually turned up for the event, but an audience of several thousand, in any case, were there to behold the musical "raid", as the supply vessel "Bourbon Orca" docked at Aker Brygge. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a symphony orchestra has made its entrance in this way.
For the experienced conductor Arvid Engegård, it must have been an unusual feeling to swing the baton from an afterdeck usually intended for heavy offshore material. But Northern Norwegian Engegård – from the city of Bodø, just north of the Arctic Circle – has stood on a ship's deck before, and carried out the task with bravura.
The members of the orchestra, dressed for the occasion in maritime white, took the challenge in their stride – the string players with their bows held high.
Showpiece after showpiece
It can't be denied that the concert programme was also festive in nature, opening with the sweeping tones of Shostakovich's Festival Overture, before moving on to Grieg's melodious "Morning Mood", and then the rousing "In the Hall of the Mountain King", from the Peer Gynt Suite.
This was followed by the Norwegian composer Gisle Kverndokk's "Heksevirvler", a composition written for Hydro's centenary, and performed for the first time during the concert that launched Hydro's birthday celebrations last year. Equally swirling was the concert's soloist, the young Catharina Chen, who, with humour and an infectious playing style, gave her all on the piece "Banjo & Fiddle," by the American composer and violinist William Kroll (1901-1980).
Following this showpiece came old and well-loved classics such as "Air" by Bach, "Slavonic Dance No. 15" by Dvorak, and finally two pieces by Prokofiev from "Romeo and Juliet" – which became the Russian composer's most popular stage music from the moment it was first performed in 1938.
It was quite clear that the concert was greatly appreciated by the audience, who applauded rhythmically from the waterfront. Many commented that this was a concert which had been worth experiencing, so they would be tempted to come along another time, despite the rain. Hopefully the Weather Gods will show greater solidarity and musical appreciation next time.
Really, Chopin's "Raindrop Prelude" in its orchestral version was the only piece missing from the concert programme...
Hydro has been the Oslo Philharmonic's sole sponsor since 1990, and the sponsorship agreement was recently extended by four years. The positive experiences from last year's centennial concert with the Oslo Philharmonic in Frogner Park – with an audience of 40,000 – form part of the background for Hydro wanting to widen the cooperation agreement with the orchestra, so as to include an annual outdoor public concert.