Mathias Rugsveen Performed Brahmsiana, Rhapsody For Bayan By Russian Viacheslav Semionov (1946–) With The Norwegian Radio Orchestra. Photo: Robert Rønning / NRK

Mathias Rugsveen (16) wins the Norwegian Soloist Prize

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November 27, 2020

On Sunday 22 November, accordionist Mathias Rugsveen from Oslo was named the winner of Virtuos 2020 and the Norwegian Soloist Prize of NOK 100,000. A concert at the Bergen International Festival is also part of the prize.

The four finalists in this year's Virtuos were Nikita Khnykin, piano, Daniil Letiagin, percussion, Balder Hella Mikkelsen, cello and Mathias Rugsveen, accordion. They all played with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra (KORK) at the studio, which for the occasion was without an audience. The entire final was broadcast on NRK2, and you can watch it here.

Mathias Rugsveen has been playing the accordion since he was five years old, and it was pure coincidence that it was this particular instrument he would end up with.

'My parents wanted me to play an instrument, and the accordion was one of those which had the shortest waiting list, says the 16-year-old, who loves the great variety of possibilities that lie in his instrument.'

Mathias is not unfamiliar with competitions, and reached the finals in Norway’s Got Talent in 2017 (see video). In the Virtuos final, he chose Brahmsiana, Rhapsody for Bayan by Russian chromatic accordionist Viacheslav Semionov (1946–).

'What joy of playing! As an old party musician myself, I must say that one feels like playing with you. Then you are guaranteed a proper party. It is obvious that Mathias received the soul of the Russian people at birth. You do not imitate it, you are it. You interpret it and create magic', said Bergen International Festival director Anders Beyer.

The festival director sat on the jury together with Eldbjørg Hemsing and Tine Thing Helseth, who were also thrilled.

'One of the most difficult things to do, is to play a simple melody so that it feels real and natural, and you manage to do that to such a high level. It is wonderful to sit and listen to', said Helseth.

As the winner of Virtuos, Mathias Rugsveen receives a soloist assignment with KORK and the Norwegian Soloist Prize of NOK 100,000, as well as an offer of a separate concert during the Bergen International Festival.

'The Norwegian Soloist Prize is an inspirational award, a reward of appreciation in cash for brilliant musicianship and a push forward in one’s career. The award has been generously donated by Karianne Westfal-Larsen', Beyer said in the final.

The final in Virtuos was supposed to have been held on March 21, and the winner would have represented Norway in the EBU's international competition Young Musicians in Zagreb. The latter was unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic.

The Norwegian Soloist Prize is awarded every year. The pandemic led to last year's winner, violinist Johan Dalene, having to postpone his prize concert in 2020, and he will therefore also perform at the Bergen International Festival in 2021.

Events planned for the 2021 Bergen International Festival will be launched throughout the autumn and winter. It is likely that plans for the 2021 Bergen International Festival will be affected by the pandemic. By launching performances and artists as they are confirmed, the Festival would like to draw attention to the work our wonderful artists do, while knowing that the final festival programme may look different. The festival will follow the health authorities’ orders and recommendations, and wants to create safe conditions and the least possible inconvenience to our audience. Therefore, ticket sales will not start until the spring.

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