Lars Petter Hagen (b. 1975) is a composer and curator. His work ranges from large-scale symphonic pieces to intimate chamber music and sound installations, via works for stage and film. Hagen lives and works in Oslo, Norway.
Photo credits: Victoria Stevens
Illustration: Esra Røise
Rob Young: A Cure for Archive Fever
LARS PETTER HAGEN
Composer and curator
His music has been called an art of ‘resignation’, silent despair, and reduction, and he describes himself as a melancholic. But if all this suggests a man in retreat from society, Lars Petter Hagen’s career suggests quite the opposite. As a composer he has attracted international acclaim for his work which maintains a unique and questioning stance towards the great musical milestones of the past. The UK’s Gramophone magazine described him as ‘essentially swearing in church, at the same time as crafting the most heavenly sounds this side of the pearly gates’ and describing his 2014 album with symphonic music performed by the Oslo Philharmonic as ‘genuinely visionary… the most important new music disc to arrive for a long time’.
His works such as Norwegian Archives, Tveitt-Fragments and The Artist’s Despair Before the Grandeur of Ancient Ruins grapple with the heavy burden of history and the anxiety of influence for an artist in an age of retromania. He imports the dilemmas of dealing with and overcoming the past into the present tense of his music. Archive Fever – the title of a sound installation he produced for the International Music Institute at Darmstadt in 2016 – could be a neat summing-up of Hagen’s approach to his artistic practice.
Between 2011 and 2017, he was the Artistic Director of Ultima, not only Norway’s largest contemporary music festival but also one of the most important events of its kind in Europe. Under his leadership the festival achieved the highest audience ratings in its 25 year history. As curator of the Ultima festival (and previously other key organisations in Norway’s musical life), Hagen applied similar thinking – each event arranged around a theme or tapestry of concepts, each encompassing modernist masterworks, new commissions and wide representation of contrasting avant garde techniques.
Just as a festival can be a conversation about past, present and future, the same idea can be applied to composing a piece of music – that it can be a platform for discussion. Hagen has always kept a loose yet highly informed relationship with tradition, often questioning it by forcing it to have a conversation with a multiplicity of styles, musical languages and performance approaches. This extends across the broad range of his music, from notated and score-based work to his collaborations with electronica projects Pantha du Prince and The Bell Laboratory. Hagen’s focus – as both composer and curator – is often about finding the arbitrary lines drawn around cultures and traditions, and applying pressure until cracks begin to show.
From 2017 Hagen took on the role of curating the centenary celebrations of Norway’s leading orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic.
Hagen is genuinely visionary: here’s the most important new music disc to arrive for a long time. Go buy and hear the future.
Philip Clark / Gramophone
Surprising, startling and often touchingly beautiful
Andrew McGregor / BBC Radio 3
[…] Ms. Andsnes instead plays a five-minute piece by the Norwegian composer Lars Petter Hagen: “Diabelli Cadenza.” It’s written for piano and EBow, a hand-held resonator which prolongs sounds from the piano strings in softly eerie ways that suggest electronic music. From Mr. Hagen’s haunting cadenza, Ms. Andsnes segues into Beethoven’s final variation, a lilting, ingeniously ornate minuet, played beautifully.
Anthony Tommasini / The New York Times
Hagens Sprache spricht nicht sofort an und trotzdem fasziniert sie, seine Musik führt eigentlich nirgendwo so richtig hin und trozdem lässt man sich gerne von ihr führen. Man muss sich allerdings als Hörer die Mühe machen, wirklich zuzuhören und sich voll und ganz in die Klangwelt des Norwegers hineinfallen zu lassen. Das Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra ist en Luxusklangkörper und trägt durch seine Qualität wesentlich zum Hörerlebnis bei.
Supersonic Pizzicato Alain Steffen / Pizzicato
[…] et helt virkelig, nesten bedøvende vemod. […] For meg er dette en utgivelse for listen over årets utgivelser.
Erling Sandmo / Morgenbladet
Framføringen i seg selv er bemerkelsesverdig god. Rolf Gupta dirigerer Oslo-Filharmonien, og tar ikke lett på en eneste takt. Verkfortolkningene er gjennomarbeidet, alle som en, og klinger flott. Så dette er en utgivelse som man kan dvele ved, med stort utbytte; virkelig en anledning til å bli bedre kjent med komponisten som portretteres. (6/6)
Ståle Wikshåland / Dagbladet
Det er en eiendommelig stillhet og ro i Hagens musikk. Den tar seg tid, den utfolder seg rolig, langsomt, ettertenksomt, som flytende klanger i seig bevegelse. Og skaper på tvers av – eller ovenpå – alle sitater og referanser et umiskjennelig personlig uttrykk. Det er lenge siden det har vært mulig å bruke ordet «vakker» om samtidsmusikk. Men Hagens musikk er nettopp det. Vakker, tyst, sart. (6/6)
Peter Larsen / Bergens Tidende
Du kan velge om du vil lese inn en ensomhet i lydene, og større refleksjoner om hvem vi faktisk er. Du kan stille spørsmål ved hvorfor musikken oppleves vakker og inderlig. Du kan spørre om hva dette inderlige egentlig består i. Er det egentlig tenkt som vakkert? (6/6)
Ida Habbestad / Aftenposten
Spellemann (Norwegian Grammy): Composer
The Edvard Prize: Contemporary
Arne Nordheims Composer Prize (Norwegian Ministry of Cultural Affairs)
Drama Desk Award («Baby Universe» for Wakka Wakka)