Ever since the 1640s Røros has been involved in German–Norwegian collaboration. The German mining pioneer Lorentz Lossius initiated a joint mining venture in the Røros region, and German engineering skills made it possible to extract copper with a large profit. The German mining director Peder Hiort set aside money to build Røros church, which was consecrated in 1784. Vinterfestspill i Bergstaden (ViB) and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) wish to continue the tradition of German–Norwegian collaboration within another art form: music.
The establishing of KonstKnekt is a natural extension of the excellent collaboration ViB has developed with the BPO over the past years. It began when Marianne Thorsen invited oboist Christoph Hartmann to ViB eight years ago when she was artistic director of the festival. Since then, a number of musicians from Berlin and Germany have visited ViB – where Christoph Hartmann himself was artistic director for the 2015 festival. The collaboration culminated in a performance by the BPO in Røros church on 1 May 2016 – an event that was inconceivable eight years ago. The performance was broadcast live on television in Germany, Turkey, China, Japan and Norway, and was sold to several other countries with a potential number of viewers in the 100 million range.
KonstKnekt is a continuation of this collaboration. Young musicians are given the opportunity to receive tuition from leading members of the BPO. This has been made possible thanks to ViB’s unique link with the orchestra over several years. The project also offers a unique opportunity to create links between Norwegian music education institutions and the BPO including their Orchester–Akademie (OABPO). The Academy is an incubator for young musicians seeking to focus on a career as an orchestra musician. Students are taught by musicians and conductors of the BPO and are instructed in the style and sound cultivated by the orchestra. Today, about a third of the BPO’s members have been recruited via the Academy. It goes without saying that the institution provides a fantastic springboard for an international career as an orchestra musician, and a continued collaboration between ViB and the BPO will be of benefit to the entire Norwegian music community. Candidates selected for the KonstKnekt project will be required to have achieved the level of a Masters or Diploma degree, and must be qualified deputies at one or more of Norway’s institutional orchestra. This is to ensure a high standard at the outset – the project is not aimed at students, but rather top qualified musicians who have a chance of gaining a place at the OABPO, and who at a later stage might occupy prominent positions on the Norwegian music scene.
Our academy will also be able to offer career advice. All of the board members of KonstKnekt are qualified to offer such advice, and the participants will have the opportunity to establish contacts and build networks with their mentors from the BPO for further studying and development. At the same time, the mentors will gain knowledge of Norwegian musicians – potential candidates for the OABPO or the BPO. When the BPO visited Røros in May this year, Sir Simon Rattle and the orchestra’s directors commented that they would like to see Norwegians in the orchestra, since they were already aware that Norway has a good number of talented, young performers. Simon Rattle is one of the prominent figures associated with the BPO whom KonstKnekt would like to invite to Norway to offer inspiration and guidance to young, Norwegian performers.
In recent years, Norwegian institutional orchestras have seen a large number of foreign applicants for vacant positions. The level is very high and competition extremely hard. This is perhaps a good thing for the orchestras, who can choose from the most highly qualified young musicians. However, this has led to a reduction in the number of Norwegians in the orchestras, reaching as low as fifty per cent in some places. In those cases where immigrant musicians have been trained in Norway and have established natural links with the Norwegian music community, we have no reservations. We have a music tradition in Norway that is well worth preserving. There is, however, a risk of undermining this tradition if imported musicians are more concerned with their own traditions, or an “international standard”.
It is not given that any solo performer can step into an orchestra; the standards demanded of orchestra musicians, however, means that they must also be able to perform solo. The musical aptitude and level of skill required for becoming an orchestra musician is formidable and a greater number of top musicians should dedicate themselves to orchestra playing. In conjunction with auditions it is often the case that young, Norwegian musicians lack knowledge of the orchestra repertoire; they might well play brilliantly, but do not have the insight and knowledge it takes to be an orchestra musician and they lose in competition with their peers from abroad who are much more familiar with the repertoire. In order to perform in a great variety of musical styles, a thorough knowledge of style, harmony, articulation, technique, communication and ensemble is prerequisite. Only a handful or orchestras in the world today can claim to live up to such requirements. The Berlin Philharmonic is undoubtedly the most prominent of them. KonstKnekt gives us a golden opportunity to take part in their unique tradition and long-acquired knowledge.
By giving a select number of our leading young musicians access to the knowledge and network of the BPO, we will be able to raise the level of expertise and commitment in our institutional orchestras to ensure that they become the cornerstone of Norway’s music life that they are meant to be.
KonstKnekt represents the very pinnacle of orchestra coaching in Norway, giving Norwegian musicians the best possible conditions under which to assert themselves at both a national and international level, and sets the bar for the standard of tuition we would hope to offer our very best performers for a career as an orchestra musician.
The term “Konstknekt” comes from the German mining industry that was so vital to the Røros community from the late seventeenth century. “Konst” is derived from “Kunst” – art – and refers to the art of engineering; “knekt” comes from “Knecht” (knave, young man), and thus “konstknekt” came to mean an apprentice/artisan of the mining industry.