A passion for John Donne

Ketil Bjørnstad

EN / DE

Ketil Bjørnstad’s passion for the English metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631) is a lifelong affair. His settings of Donne’s verse have led to recordings including The Shadow, Grace and the ECM album The Light. “After working with the texts of John Donne for more than twenty years, I still find new approaches to understanding what he wrote and I find music throughout. It is in the language, in the rhythm, in the silence between the sentences – a passionate quest for meaning and reconciliation. Donne’s dramatic life is reflected in the texts and everywhere in them you will find the passion, melodies and sounds”. Bjørnstad wrote A passion for John Donne for the Oslo International Church Festival in the winter of 2011/2012 and the premiere performance – documented here – was at the Sofienberg Kirke in Oslo in March 2012. The Oslo Chamber Choir is sensitively directed by Håkon Daniel Nystedt, and passion is personified in the unique performance of Håkon Kornstad, who makes his ECM debut, as both tenor saxophonist and classical tenor singer.

Ketil Bjørnstads Passion für die metaphysische Dichtung des englischen Poeten John Donne (1572 – 1631) ist eine lebenslange Angelegenheit. Seine Vertonungen von Donnes Versen haben zu Aufnahmen wie The Shadow, Grace und dem ECM-Album The Light geführt. „Auch nach mehr als zwanzig Jahren der Arbeit mit Texten von John Donne finde ich immer noch neue Zugänge zum Verständnis seiner Schriften, und ich finde darin überall Musik. Sie steckt in der Sprache, im Rhythmus, in der Stille zwischen den Sätzen – eine leidenschaftliche Suche nach Sinn und Versöhnung. Donnes dramatisches Leben ist in den Texten reflektiert, und man wird überall in ihnen die Leidenschaft, die Melodien und Klänge finden.“ Bjørnstad schrieb A passion for John Donne im Winter 2011/2012 für das Oslo International Church Festival und die – hier dokumentierte – Premiere fand im März 2012 in der Sofienberg-Kirche in Oslo statt. Der Oslo Chamber Choir wird sensibel von Håkon Daniel Nystedt dirigiert; die einzigartige Darbietung von Håkon Kornstad, der hier sowohl als Tenorsaxophonist wie als Sänger sein ECM-Debüt hat, ist die personifizierte Passion.
Featured Artists Recorded

March 2012, Sofienberg Kirke, Oslo

Original Release Date

24.10.2014

  • 1Introitus - a passion for John Donne
    (Ketil Bjørnstad)
    03:08
  • 2Thou hast made me
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    07:54
  • 3A fever
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    05:43
  • 4Death, be not proud
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    03:39
  • 5Interlude no. 1
    (Ketil Bjørnstad)
    02:48
  • 6The legacy
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    03:48
  • 7Batter my heart, three personed God
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    03:28
  • 8A nocturnal upon St. Lucy's day
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    08:33
  • 9Farewell to love
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    07:31
  • 10Interlude no. 2
    (Ketil Bjørnstad)
    04:02
  • 11Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debt
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    02:22
  • 12A valediction, forbidden mourning
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    08:20
  • 13Oh, to vex me, contraries meet in one
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    05:03
  • 14Interlude no. 3
    (Ketil Bjørnstad)
    02:33
  • 15There we leave you
    (John Donne, Ketil Bjørnstad)
    03:50
Ketil Bjørnstad’s passion for the writings of English metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631) is a lifelong affair. The Norwegian pianist-composer’s settings of Donne’s verse have led to recordings including The Shadow, Grace and the ECM album The Light. “After working with the texts of John Donne for more than twenty years”, says Bjørnstad, “I still find new approaches to understanding what he wrote - and I find music throughout. It is in the language, in the rhythm, in the silence between the sentences – a passionate quest for meaning and reconciliation. Donne's dramatic life is reflected in the texts and everywhere in them you will find the passion, melodies and sounds”.

Ketil Bjørnstad wrote A passion for John Donne for the Oslo International Church Festival in the winter of 2011/2012 and the premiere performance, documented here, was at the Sofienberg Kirke in Oslo in March 2012. The Oslo Chamber Choir is sensitively directed by Håkon Daniel Nystedt, and passion is personified in the unique performance of Håkon Kornstad, who makes his ECM debut, as both tenor saxophonist and classical tenor singer. Kornstad makes the challenging transition from saxophone improviser to operatic vocalist seem natural in this context, and shines in both roles. Bjørnstad’s curriculum vitae has sketched a similar process in reverse: he began his career as a classical piano soloist before forming alliances with the jazz players.

In recent seasons Ketil Bjørnstad seems to have been reviewing the totality of his life’s work; his widely acclaimed trilogy of novels – To Music, The River and The Lady In The Valley – drew on his early classical experience, and both classical and jazz players have rubbed shoulders in projects such as the recent Edvard Munch tribute Sunrise, which also called upon the services of the Oslo Chamber Choir. Bjørnstad’s larger compositions have left areas open for improvised expression, as in the three “Interludes” here, with creative contributions from Kornstad and percussionist Birger Mistereggen, last heard on ECM in the company of the Trio Mediaeval (see Folk Songs), as well as from the composer himself.

Over the years, Bjørnstad has been a highly prolific creator, with more than 50 albums and 40 books to his name. The Oslo-born pianist, composer, improviser, novelist, poet and essayist, described by The Guardian as “a cultural prodigy”, has been an ECM recording artist since 1993, when his Water Stories album was issued. Other ECM recordings include The Sea, The River, The Sea II, Epigraphs, Life In Leipzig, The Light – Songs of Love and Fear, Remembrance, Night Song, Vinding’s Music – Songs From The Alder Thicket, La notte, his tribute to film  director Antonioni, and the aforementioned Sunrise, a cantata on texts by Edvard Munch.

The Oslo Chamber Choir was founded in 1984 by Grete Pedersen. The choir is noted for its quality, flexibility and an ability to combine and switch between different genres, such as classical, Nordic contemporary music and folk music. Its innovative exploration of the Norwegian song tradition, in particular, has earned the choir recognition at home and abroad.