Throughout the post-war period, church music has been at the forefront of Norwegian musical life. In terms of both musical innovation and institutional renewal, representatives of church music have spearheaded development while church music composers, such as Egil Hovland and Knut Nystedt, have enjoyed growing popularity among both musicians and audiences. This was the tradition Trond Kverno proved to have inherited in the 1970s.
Trond Kverno was born in Oslo in 1945. He took his degree in church music at the Oslo Conservatory of Music in 1967. The following year, he graduated in music theory and choir direction. He was ordained as a deacon of music in 1975 and has served as an organist in several churches in Oslo and elsewhere.
The majority of Kverno's production consists of choral works. They are among the best and most frequently performed in Norway today, from small masterpieces such as Ave maris stella (1976) and Corpus Christi Carol (1982) to Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Secundum Matthaeum pro cboribus duobus cum contoribus diversibus- the St. Matthew Passion (1986). The latter is one of the largest a cappella compositions written in Scandinavia this century, an extremely demanding piece for choir and many soloists where Jesus is represented by a male quartet.
Kverno has been a leading figure in music theory education at the Norwegian State Academy of Music since its foundation in 1973. In 1978 he became Senior Lecturer in church music and composition theory, concentrating particularly on the more creative, performing aspects of the latter and focusing on liturgical organ playing, improvisation and composition for use in church services. Since 1983, when the Academy introduced a master's degree in church music, he has also been involved in liturgy and hymnody. He was appointed Professor of Church Music in 1994, specialising in church music composition.
In the liturgical area, Trond Kverno has established a national reputation. He was a member of the Liturgy Commission (1976-78) appointed to design the new liturgy for morning service in the Church of Norway. He has been able to draw on his experience from the Liturgy Commission in his posts as composer and liturgist at the Oslo Cathedral and Old Aker Church, Oslo. He is a colourful addition to Norwegian church life, which, in the Lutheran tradition, has extremely spartan ceremonies. With his ebullient personality and considerable knowledge, Kverno has experimented with forms of service and ceremonies that are close to Roman Catholic practice - using incense, Gregorian chants, processions, costumes etc. - leading to inevitable protests from the state church authorities.
The work of the Liturgy Commission also included preparations for the Norwegian Hymn Book of 1985. Kverno regards it as a major challenge to compose for an audience with little musical expertise and regards each melody included in a song or hymn book as a minor triumph. He has plenty to be proud of in this respect: 27 of his hymns are included in the Norwegian Hymn Book of 1985, and his name is also to be found in Swedish, Finnish, Danish and German hymnals.
Trond Kverno sees his work primarily in the light of his church music activities. He believes the concept of “absolute music” to occur only seldom, since most works are written in some kind of theoretical or aesthetic context. The individual work may also reflect the person who commissioned it, its users or its listeners. In Kverno's view, church music also differs significantly from music played in a concert hall: “The performer is the entire Christian congregation where everyone sings, or where some sing on behalf of everyone while others pray. The Christian congregation is also the instrument. The music resounds through the faith of the holy church... and is part of this liturgy's Gesamtkunstwerk- the listener is the Holy Trinity. The purpose is the congregation's prayer rather than aesthetic pleasure. The main point is that the music hears us and interprets us before the throne of God - not that we hear the music. This is the fundamental assumption upon which my work is based. I regard this work as being similar to that of the icon-painter, where each icon is a window on a different reality than the world which surrounds us.”
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