Steingrimur Rohloff is an Icelandic-German composer. He is coming to Bodø with a world premiere, performed by Francine Vis and Esbjerg Ensemble.
Steingrimur studied in Cologne and in Paris at the Conservatoire Superieur and the IRCAM with Gérard Grisey and Marc-André Dalbavie among others; this French school of crystalline orchestral music has influenced Rohloff profoundly. Among Rohloff’s many awards is the prestigious B.A. Zimmermann Award, which he won whilst living in Germany. The jury described his music as: “of an original fantasy … exciting melodic creativity… colourful harmonies…”
His list of works stretches from orchestral and chamber music to electroacoustic music, and in recent years Rohloff has also produced a number of stage works. His very first music theatre work was the children’s opera Story of a Mother based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. It has earned the most prestigious Danish performning arts award: Reumert. Other stage works include 4 Angles on Medea, Motion Demon, Timeshift, Babel, nominated for two Reumerts and Lysistrate. Furthermore to mention is his regular collaboration with the world famous Ensemble Modern and festivals like Klang, Wien Modern, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Klangspuren, Aldeburgh festival of music, Cresc – Frankfurt, Triennale Köln and more.
Your pieces at the festival are based on texts from Lysistrata and Medea. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with these old myths and how you worked with the texts?
I tasted blood for the Greek myths while working with Medea on a small chamber opera with the Danish Ensemble “Figura” in 2010. There is almost a fairy tale character about these old works. They seem to be – as we who deal with classical music know – made for modern interpretations.
I guess many of my interests meet in these works. History, Music, Opera, Philosophy.
But most of all seems these stories to come as from other planets. The “otherworldly-ness” interests me.
I have since been working on Lysistrata and with Medea again. All with the great Danish Poet Peter Laugesen as a partner, who is one of the writers in Denmark with the utmost forceful language. And he happens also to be a scholar on the classical antiquity.
Many of your pieces have a narrative voice. Do you prefer working with text?
It is not all about the text. But mostly about my interest in music theatre, and pushing the boundaries within the classical opera form. I reflect on what “narration” can be… A story can have a classical narration. But the internal “narration” of a modern music theatre piece can beat the excitement of a classical story at times. I try to experiment with the relation of these terms, I think.
What thoughts do you have about the composer’s role in the further development of the music and art field?
I find myself thinking about more and more about the question “why music?” And why do I i.e. send my children to music lessons? While I earlier never even wondered, and now I do more so, my answer to this is quite obvious and even more clear. And beware it is even a bit corny in its obviousness?: It is still the best and better option, compared to so many other things we do in this world. So while making music is not in of itself political, just the act of putting it out there against – well a long list of frustrating things in the world – might be a political act of sorts. It is at least the uttering of a kind of a “wish”…
I call myself happy for having an on-going collaboration with one of Denmark’s greatest poets. It started in 2011 when Peter
Laugesen, me and 3 other Nordic composers (Malin Bång, Henrik Hellstenius, Nicolai Worsaae) made a chamber opera about
Medea. Later, I composed a song cycle over some of his poems for the Danish Figura Ensemble and the Seattle Chamber
Players. Finally, the opera “Lysistrata” with Laugesen as a librettist was premiered in the Funen Opera in Odense with Tuva
Semmingsen in the title role in 2016. From this, we hear excerpts today.
For a CD project with the Esbjerg Ensemble, the idea was born to revisit the theme of Medea. We are moving chronologically
from the tragedy of Medea with Peter Laugesen’s archaic language to that of Lysistrata. With the war in Syria in mind, this
comedy was transformed into a tragedy.
Lysistrata fights against the war craze of the people. But in vain. More than 2000 years have passed since these greek stories were created. They are unfortunately still very valid today.