Alfred Janson's (born 1937) debut as an accordion virtuoso occurred at the age of twelve, when he performed at local Oslo restaurants. He also had engagements for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and received offers for a European tour; something his mother promptly discouraged. She played an important role in his musical development through her work as a teacher of the piano. His debut as a pianist took place in Oslo in 1962. As a performing musician, he has has been particularly recognized in the jazz scene - but being multi-faceted is one of his main characteristics. He has expressed an interest in almost all musical forms with the exception of "Wagner and Viennese-operettas".
Many of his compositions show evidence of his background in jazz, and among Janson's earliest compositions we find several for jazz ensemble, such as Patrice Lumumba (1961) for piano, bass and drums. From 1962 onwards, he began to compose in a more traditional format of notation, and rapidly received attention with pieces like November 1962 for piano and Lullaby for 48 String-Players and Soprano (1963). In 1966 his orchestral work Construction and Hymn won the prize of best 'non-Dutch' work in the composition contest at the Bilthoven Festival. The same year he had his international breakthrough at the World Music Days with Canon for chamber orchestra and tape. Other significant works include the opera A Mountain Fairytale (1972), Prelude for Violin and Orchestra (1975), Interlude for Orchestra (1985) and National Hymn (1988), which had it's most recent performance during the World Music Days in Oslo 1990.
It is difficult to place Alfred Janson in a stylistic category. His early works belong in a modernist tradition, but his compositions gradually developed a more tonal nature. He is very proud of the fact that Nocturne (1967) for mixed choir, celli, percussion and harp has been characterized as the Nordic breakthrough of the "new-friendliness". He is frequently thought of as a modern romanticist, who has allowed himself inspiration from both jazz and electronics. His works mirror a creative energy, originality and will-power; at the same time they possess a light and lyrical undertone. He has often been inspired by political themes, and is probably the only Norwegian composer who has had a demonstration against a performance of one of his works in the Oslo Concert Hall - the work was written as a salute to Arne Treholt, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for espionage in a highly controversial trial in 1985. In the more humorous-political genre Valse Triste is a milestone - a 'not altogether kind' collage of the Norwegian cultural debate from around 1970. Errotikk and Pollitikk also belongs to this last genre; a libretto by the author Arild Nyquist, in which the composer, probably as the only in the world, uses the tempo-description "Hambo Lento".
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