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Superlørdag with the Kringkastingsorkestret

Yay, it’s Superlørdag with the Kringkastingsorkestret! Say what? Why, “Super-Saturday” with Oslo’s Norwegian Broadcasting Cooperation Symphony Orchestra (KORK), of course.

Super Saturdays are the surprisingly casual afternoon-outings of the orchestra that take place in the University’s aula, famous for and dominated by the vast, rugged Edvard Munch paintings that hang—mural-like—on its walls. If some of them look like hasty figural studies—they’re not, as an exhibition at the Munch museum showed: for each final product there exist dozens of preliminary versions from pencil sketch to drafts in oil. The three main canvases have a more polished look to them and depict, to the left: “History”. To the right: “Alma Mater”. Up front, as the centre piece of this virtual triptych, hangs the eventually fascinating picture “The Sun”, radiating over orchestra and audience.

The KORK can’t have it easy as the third orchestra in a town that hasn’t struck me as particularly proud of the classical music element of its cultural offerings. It has journeyed from light music starting in 1946 under Øivind Bergh to a modern Radio Symphony Orchestra covering a vast repertoire that holds the flag of contemporary music up in Oslo. Along the way, which included shuddersome Eurovision Song Contest muzak-duty, they seem to have attained a smallish but loyal following. Certainly the crowd, shy of 300, that came out on this prematurely sunny Lørdag, March 24th, was distinct and much more heterogeneous than that seen at the Philharmonic or Opera.

It was rewarded, too. Principal conductor Thomas Søndergård led the orchestra in a light and breezy program that suited the weather and started with Prokofiev’s First Symphony. Aided by the surprisingly fine, resonant acoustic with just the right amount of reverb, the KORK’s performance had a definite spring in its step, yet was full and burnished and might be said to have—successfully—punched well above its weight.

Francis Poulenc’s Piano Concerto is a natural charmer and Christian Ihle Hadland, who had put a smile on my face with Mozart when he substituted for Lars Vogt at the Oslo Philharmonic last year, married the music’s light wit and ease seamlessly with its romantic sound. Poulenc himself will have known whether his Sinfonietta was meant as cute or serious, exotic or conventional, but I often can’t—until the finale when it puts all the chips down on joie de vivre. The orchestra hadn’t, by then, lost much of the engaged enthusiasm from the Prokofiev, and only little more of the initial accuracy… helping a good deal to making Superlørdag live up to its name.