Bergen Festival is Norway’s oldest and biggest musical and theatrical review. It takes place in three main forums: the Grieghallen, Håkonshallen and National Scene theatre. Apart from smaller concerts in the houses of the composers Edvard Grieg (Troldhaugen), Harald Sæverud (Siljustøl) and Ole Bull (Lysøen and Valestrand), innumerable events are organised throughout the city.
The festival was held for the first time in 1953, inspired by the Celebration of Music initiated by Edvard Grieg in Bergen in 1898.
Arne Nordheim first appeared at the Festival in 1959 as a music critic for the Morgenposten. The following year, his Aftonland was performed there and won him a prize – a cheque funded by the factory owner Jørgen S. Lien. The prize obliged Nordheim to compose, as a token of gratitude, a work for the next edition of the Festival. He wrote Canzona, the world premiere of which took place on 11 June 1961. In later years, Nordheim regularly presented his works at the Festival. The first performance of Colorazione for Hammond organ, percussion, delay unit, ring modulator and filters, as well as the electroacoustic work Warszawa, took place on 28 May 1968. For some time, Nordheim was a member of the Festival's music committee. In that role, he worked persistently to introduce contemporary music to the programme of the Festival. In 1988, he gave the opening speech at the Festival.