Halvor Haug was born in Trondheim on February 20th 1952. He spent his childhood in Bærum outside Oslo. After studying in Helsinki and London, as well as in Oslo, he soon became recognized as one of Norway's leading composers. His symphonies, and many other smaller orchestral works, have attracted attention both in Norway and abroad.
There is no doubt that Haugs music is firmly rooted in the Nordic symphonic tradition; from these roots has grown a musical world full of strong emotion, drama and intellect, reflecting the composers personality, feelings, temperament, courage, strength and originality. His masterly orchestration is much revered; Halvor Haug has the ability to make use of post-war compositional techniques, incorporating modernistic elements in music of a more traditional flavour. Haugs music can therefore really be looked at as innovative, and does not lend itself to being characterized as part of the present neo-romantic trend in contemporary music. He is, however, often described as being a romantic composer of our time.
His first major success came at the age of 24 when his work Symfonisk bilde (Symphonic Picture)was first performed by the Norwegian Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra. The work has subsequently been performed several times and was recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1982. Stillhet for strykere (Silence for Strings) from 1977 has already become a classic with numerous performances. At an early stage in his career, Haug demonstrated a sure grasp of instrumentation technique which he has further developed; in Poema Sonoro, commissioned by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1980, texture of acoustics is more prominent than in earlier works. Of even more importance are his five symphonies. Though they may differ structurally, all three show relationship concerning their lyrical intensity, emotional outbursts, and long, freely flowing passages. The first symphony, in three movements, was first performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1983 and later recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. The second symphony, written in one large movement and scored for an expanded orchestra, attracted great attention when premiered by the Norwegian Youth Symphony Orchestra in Elverum in 1984 and subsequently by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1986 and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in 1992. The third symphony, entitled Det uutgrunnelige livet (The inscrutable Life) was commissioned by the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, which gave the first performance in 1994. The work has also been performed by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and recorded for CD by the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. His two latest symphonies are both in one movement and were composed successively in 2001 and 2002. Symphony No 4 was commissioned by Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, who premiered it in 2002. The fifth symphony, commissioned by Trondheim Symphony Orchestra was also premiered in 2002 in connection with the 50th birthday of the composer.
Most frequently performed is the work Insignia, premiered by the English Chamber Orchestra in 1994 and performed in Norway, Sweden, Finland, England and Germany. The song cycle for mezzo soprano and orchestra called Glem aldri henne (Do not ever forget her) was commissioned as part of the city of Trondheim's millennium celebrations in 1997 and was premiered by the Danish singer Marianne Rørholm and the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Ole Kristian Ruud. Haugs work for orchestra is Il Preludio delI' Ignoto, commissioned by the Norwegian Youth Symphony Orchestra and performed to critical acclaim at the Expo 2000 in Hannover and Young Euro Classic in Berlin in August 2000.
Though Halvor Haug has the reputation of being a symphonist, he has also composed excellent chamber music including a piano trio, commissioned and premiered by the Grieg Trio in 1995. Other works to be mentioned is String Quartet No. 1 (1985) and String Quartet No. 2, which received its world premiere by the Oslo String Quartet at the International Chamber Music Festival in Stavanger, where Halvor Haug was a composer in residence in 1996.
Halvor Haug publishes his works with Gehrmans Musikförlag in Stockholm. During the recent years he has reduced his activities as a composer. Haug lives at Harestue north of Oslo.