Řistein Sommerfeldt (1919 - 1994) was born in Oslo. He studied at the Music Conservatory in Oslo, from which he graduated as a choirmaster in 1947. Though he studied composition with Fartein Valen for a short time, his two periods of study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris were to have the greatest significance for his development as a composer. Nevertheless, he has a strong foothold in Norwegian tradition; Norwegian folk music has meant a great deal to him, particularly the religious folk tune. Sommerfeldt's extensive production is dominated by songs and piano works, a number of which have been standard repertoire for Norwegian performers for many years. Examples of these are Two Hamsun Songs, Three Lyrical Pictures, and five sonatas and three Fable Suites for piano. This also applies to his many pieces for various solo instruments, such as Spring Tunes for solo flute. His love of the human voice is clearly revealed in his chamber music, in works such as About Love and From William Blake's Poetry. Two of his most brilliant orchestral works are Sinfonia la Betulla and the piano concerto with the lovely title Towards a Yearning.
Řistein Sommerfeldt was active on several fronts in Norwegian music life. He has served on the boards of the Norwegian Society of Composers and the Norwegian State Concert Organization. As a musicologist and critic, he has contributed material to the radio and the press for many years. And last but not least, it is impossible to describe him without mentioning his warm, winning manner and sense of humour, which have won him friends and admirers in virtually all the various "camps" and institutions in Norwegian music life.
Řistein Sommerfeldt received the Lindeman Music Prize in 1991.
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