The philharmonic hall in Amsterdam is regarded as the finest concert hall in the world. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest) is linked to Norway through the figure of Edvard Grieg, who conducted it many times and in 1899 invited the orchestra to take part in the first World of Music in Bergen.
One of Arne Nordheim’s childhood friends related that in 1952 they sailed together from Larvik to Fredrikshavn and hitchhiked from there to Amsterdam, where they were taken in by acquaintances of their parents. Nordheim was dying to see the Concertgebouw orchestra in rehearsal. At first, he was refused admission, but he refused to give up and slipped inside. After waiting impatiently by the artists’ entrance for several hours, the friend spotted Arne coming out arm in arm with the legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski! The autograph of another great conductor, Bruno Walter, on a concert programme shows that Nordheim was at one of his concerts, too.
In the summer of 1953, Nordheim travelled to Amsterdam for the Concertgebouw Music Festival. He stayed there with the artists Johan and Riete Sterenberg. There he met the conductor Rafael Kubelik. The conversation turned to the symphonies of Mahler, and it ended with Nordheim being invited to Germany, where Kubelik was about to conduct one of them. He promised that the following year, when he returned to the Netherlands, he would give Nordheim free conducting lessons.
In the summer of 1954, Nordheim returned to Amsterdam for concerts given by the Concertgebouw Orchestra with Kubelik as guest conductor, and he took a few lessons in conducting.
The Concertgebouw Orchestra performed Nordheim’s Canzona at the ISCM festival in Amsterdam in 1963, then again a few years later.
For its centenary celebrations in 1988, the orchestra commissioned a work from Arne Nordheim. Thus arose Magma, first performed on 8 December 1988 under the baton ofNeeme Järvi. (jc)