Eivind Aadland with Håkon Bleken and his painting of Arne Nordheim. Photo: Birgit Hagerup Andersen (detail) View full image

Eivind Aadland curates art for anniversary concert

Eivind Aadland is curating artworks for a concert in celebration of the 94th birthday of Norwegian artist Håkon Bleken with Trondheim Symphony Orchestra on 16 February. The programme opens with Arne Nordheim’s Nachruf, which will be accompanied by Bleken’s paintings of the composer and ends with Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, for which Aadland is choosing works that will serve as a backdrop.

Aadland explains: ‘For each movement, there will be few paintings projected above the orchestra. I’m trying to find works that resonate with the different movements. It’s quite intuitive. I see paintings as having a soundworld, a ‘klang’. They must have some of the same atmosphere as the movements. I’m trying to stay within certain colours for each movement, so as not to make it an endless flicking of images. For example, for the slow movement of the Prokofiev, I’m finding deep red colours that might represent love, whereas for the finale I’ve found more playful, bright images.’

As a passionate art collector, Aadland often collaborates with visual artists – this season he works with Mat Collishaw on Sky Burial with both Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. The concert in Trondheim will be relatively straightforward, he says: ‘This is the most simple form of art and music working together. We’re making associations between the music and paintings that will resonate, rather than trying to tell a story. Bleken is a beloved artist in Norway, especially in Trondheim, and I hope we can make it into a beautiful celebration of him.’


‘When I talk to artists, there are so many ideas we have in common: foreground, background, density, transparency. We end up using so many of the same words’


Aadland finds similarities between music and art, he explains: ‘When I talk to artists, there are so many ideas we have in common: foreground, background, density, transparency. We end up using so many of the same words. We often talk about colour in music, which is quite strange, because I don’t actually see yellow or blue, but rather nuances of textures.’ Good art and good music give him the same feeling, he says: ‘When I see art that is really wonderful, I get goosebumps. It’s the same with music. There is some intuitive reaction. That’s what all art is about.’

Do visual images ever inform his performances? ‘While I’m conducting, there are many technical aspects to keep in control, but when we get to certain passages, I can feel something happening – sometimes I even have tears in my eyes. I don’t have clear images in my head but conducting is more than technique and making sure everybody plays together. Something indescribable happens and those are the moments we want to create for the audience.’


‘In our profession, we get so obsessed about playing well, balancing chords, making all the technical things right, but it’s usually the unexpected and surprising moments in a concert that are the most beautiful’


It’s not always possible to control this, he admits: ‘The older I get, the more I’m aware that we’re trying to make something unexpected happen and I try to be open to that in the concert situation. In our profession, we get so obsessed about playing well, balancing chords, making all the technical things right, but it’s usually the unexpected and surprising moments in a concert that are the most beautiful. The musicians feel it and so does the audience, even if we don’t know what it is. Music has the power to lift you out of normal thought patterns. If we do well, the audience should leave having experienced something completely different – something out of the ordinary.’


Eivind Aadland with Håkon Bleken and his painting of Arne Nordheim