Kjell Flem (born in Ålesund 25.10.1943) studied church music with the conservatories in Oslo and Bergen. After his organ debut in 1968 he embarked on the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland, on a state grant.
Here he studied organ with Enzio Forsblom and composition with Einar Englund and Einojuhani Rautavaara. He later was a scholarship holder with the St. Olaf College, Minnesota and Northern Illinois University in USA, where he received his Bachelor of Music Degree and Master of Music Degree in theory and composition. During his stay in USA he did the solo part in the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 with St. Olaf Symphony Orchestra. He has also given a number of organ concerts that have been broadcasted in Norway, Finland and USA.
1986/87 he spent in Japan, researching Japanese contemporary music on a scholarship from the Japan Foundation. During this stay he studied composition with one of Japan’s foremost composers, Akira Miyoshi, president of the prestigious Toho Gakuen School of Music i Tokyo.
Kjell Flem has been Vice President of the Norwegian Section of ISCM. He has also been a music critic in a number of Norwegian newspapers. He has been compère and written program notes for Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition to his work as a composer he has taught organ with St. Olaf College, Minnesota and music theory with the Northern Illinois University, Illinois, USA. He has been a lecturer at the U. Pihl College in Bergen and taught at the Department of Music, dance and drama at Fagerlia College in Ålesund till 2009. He is a music critic in the main paper in Ålesund. In 2005 he was awarded the Cultural Prize of the City of Ålesund.
Ultima Thule, commenced in Finland in 1969 and finished in USA, was Flem’s first orchestral piece. The title is the Latin term for the Arctic area, and the work develops through a number of pictures from this region’s great geographical and climatic contrasts, meanwhile the composer experiments with various orchestral combinations of sound. The work was premiered by Bergen Philharmonic Ochestra in 1986, and has later been performed a number of times in Bergen, Oslo and Helsinki. It is recorded by Bergen Philharmonic Ochestra.
Flem has also composed for percussion: Haiku Sounds for 3 percussionists, piano, tape and narrator has been performed in Norway, Sweden and Japan.
Metal Structures for two pianos was premiered by Eva Knardahl and Einar Steen-Nøkleberg in 1984, and has later been plaid by a.o. Roberto Szidon and Richard Metzler at the Mobile Contemporale Festivalen in Salzburg. The piece has been recorded by the Norwegian pianists Einar Røttingen and Jan Hovden.
Danses for bass marimba was commissioned by the French percussionist Pascal Zavaro, who premiered it in Paris in 1988.
The Piano Concerto, commissioned by the pianist Håkon Austbø, achieved great acclaim after the world premiere in Bergen in 1992. He has also plaid the concerto with Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra has recorded it on CD with the pianist Sergey Ouryvaev and conductor Alexander Kantorov.
The orchestra piece Solar Wind for Strings, premiered in Bergen 1991, is Flem’s most frequently performed work and has been plaid by Oslo Philharmonic Ochestra, The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, BIT-20 Ensemble, Minsk Chamber Orchestra, Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonie de Radio France (at Festival Présences 2004) and Orchestre Colonne in Paris. Tromsø Symphony Orchestra, Ålesund Chamber Soloists and Ålesund Symphony Orchestra has performed the piece several times. St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra has also recorded the work on CD.
The Night for 8-part mixed choir was commissioned by the Ultima Festival in Oslo and was performed during the festival in 1995 by Oslo Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Stefan Sköld. The piece has also been performed by Schola Cantorum, Ensemble Dali, Ålesund Chamber Choir, Latvias Statskor and Utaoni Choir in Japan. It has later been recorded by the Norwegian Soloists Choir.
Jubilus per Organo, commissioned for the inauguration of the new organ in Bergen Cathedral, was premiered by Tor Grønn in 1997. It has later been performed at Nordic Music Days in Stockholm (1998), Ultima Festival in Oslo (1999). The Finish organists Kira Lankinen has performed the piece several times in Finland and abroad.
The organ suite Ecclesia in mundo was written to the 100-years aniversary of Ålesund church. The piece consist of three movement and the Jubilus is included as the third movement. The suite is performed several times by the renovned organist Terje Winge. He has also recorded the piece on CD with Lindberg Lyd - 2 L. The suite is also orchestrated by the composer and had its premiere at the Fjord Cadenza Festival in 2013.
His Cello Concerto had its world premier in 2016 with the Ålesund Symphony Orchestra and the cellist Torun Stavseng played the solo part.
Prisms for String Quartet was commissioned by Ålesund String Quartet and had it first performance in 2017 in Ålesund.