Classical and Contemporary Music

The first works following William Heinesen’s afore mentioned compositions were written in the 1970’s by Pauli í Sandagerði (b. 1955) and were predominantly pieces for solo piano. The 1970’s also saw the first compositions of non-strophical choral music by Bjarni Restorff (b. 1955), who is still one of the most significant composers of choral music in the Faroe Islands.

In 1984 Faroese composers were invited to attend a workshop in writing music for chamber orchestras. The workshop was arranged by Vestjysk Kammerensemble (The Chamber Ensemble of Western Jutland in Denmark), which was at the time hosting and performing a series of concerts in the newly opened Nordic House in Tórshavn (the capital of the Faroe Islands). The initiative was met with enthusiasm and subsequently a group of composers and musicians organised a number of concerts with 20th century music, where the majority of the pieces performed were written by Faroese composers, who had attended the workshop. These included Pauli í Sandagerði (b.1955), Sunleif Rasmussen (b. 1961) and Kristian Blak (b. 1947), but others were soon to follow. It is interesting to note that several of the composers of these first pieces for chamber ensemble and otherwise for classical instruments, had a background in jazz or rock – some are still active in these genres as well – and were new to artistic expression through written scores.

Inspired by the workshop in 1984, Faroese composers instigated, what could be deemed as an education-initiative for themselves. They arranged for regular visits by tutors from Iceland (composer Atli Heimir Sveinsson) and Denmark (composers Svend Aaquist and Karl Aage Rasmussen) as well as they established a practice of distance tutoring, where the participating Faroese composers could get feedback on their work in progress. This scheme, which ran over approximately 10 years, helped create and establish the healthy and encouraging environment for new composition, which is characteristic of the Faroe Islands today.

The first major presentation of Faroese composition abroad was at the St. Magnus Festival on the Orkney Islands in 1991, where young Faroese musicians performed works by Kári Bæk (b. 1950), Atli Petersen (b. 1963), Sunleif Rasmussen, Kristian Blak and Pauli í Sandagerði (b.1955). The visit to this internationally recognised festival, which takes place in an island society much like the Faroe Islands, but with a population half the size, sparked thoughts of having a similar event at home. There was already collaboration in place between the composers and the Faroese National Gallery regarding a concert series in 1990 as well as an annual concert in connection with the opening of the Spring Exhibition. Over the next couple of years, this relationship was developed further and in 1992, the first Summartónar festival for Classical and Contemporary music was held. The festival has seen numerous premiers of Faroese compositions and has since the beginning been a meeting point for international performers and composers. The festival also saw the formation of the first professional ensemble on the Faroe Islands, which today works under the name and critical acclaim of Aldubáran. Together with Summartónar, Aldubáran is essential to Faroese composition and musical life, as it is a platform for new music, and since the development of these two institutions, works by Faroese composers are heard and performed more and more internationally by both Faroese and non-Faroese artists. Faroese composers also frequently get commissions from outside of the country.

Young composers are now also starting to enter onto the Faroese music scene. Andras Olsen (b. 1978) and Tróndur Bogason (b. 1976), who studies composition at the Royal Danish Conservatory, are two examples of this. Tróndur is the second Faroese person to study composition. The first one was Sunleif Rasmussen, who in 200??? received the Nordic Council’s Music Prize for his symphony ‘Oceanic Days’, which is the hitherto greatest recognition of Faroese composition and a major achievement for a culture with such short history of notated music.