Prestigious prize for young soloists

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By: Ketil Mosnes
March 17, 2021

Winning the Norwegian Soloist Prize doesn’t merely mean a NOK 100 000 award. A performance during the Bergen International Festival the following year is also included in the package.

The Norwegian Soloist Prize is awarded in different ways every other year. In even-numbered years, the TV-show Virtuos is broadcasted on NRK (Norwegian State Television), and the winner also receives the Norwegian Soloist Prize of NOK 100 000, in addition to being named Norway's participant in the European competition Eurovision Young Musicians, arranged by the EBU. The festival director hands out the prize in the TV broadcast, and in 2020, the current director Anders Beyer was also a member of the jury.In odd-numbered years, with 2019 being the first, the Norwegian Soloist Prize is awarded to one out of three or five nominees. The participants are instrumentalists or singers under the age of 30. The prize consists of NOK 100 000, a subscription concert with Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in the autumn season and a recital at the Bergen International Festival the following spring. Previous winners of the award include Christian Ihle Hadland, Eldbjørg Hemsing, Vilde Frang, Guro Kleven Hagen and Sonoko Miriam Shimano Welde. Peter Herresthal, initiator and chairman of the board of the Norwegian Soloist Prize, tells more:

The Norwegian Soloist Prize was established in 2005, based on a donation from the businessman Bernt J. Fossum. The prize was established to support young musicians and help Norwegian concert organizers and orchestras to get to know young Norwegian soloists. From 2020, Karianne Westfal Larsen supports us with the prize money that goes directly to the young soloist. Basically we try to highlight young talents who have the potential to make a soloist career. There are so many talents and they are all very good!At the Virtuos show, there is a jury put together by NRK. Then every other year there is an international jury led by the chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. This allows the international jury members to catch a glimpse of the young Norwegian talentsIn 2019, the violin prodigy Johan Dalene won the generous prize, but due to the corona crisis the concert at the 2020 version of the festival unfortunately had to be cancelled. Because of this, the 2021 festival will present two soloist prize winners, both Dalene and the 2020 winner, the accordion talent Mathias Rugsveen. Bergen International Festival had a chat with the two young musicians, who - despite playing different types of instruments - have a lot in common in addition to being soloist prize winners: They were born in the 2000s, they are considered to be among the greatest new musical talents in Norway, they have already won several awards, and they were quite young when they started playing their respective instruments.

The questions:

1. Congratulations on winning the Norwegian Soloist Prize! How do you prepare mentally and physically for such a competition?2. In retrospect, what did winning the soloist award mean to you?3. Feel free to tell us a little about what inspired you go all in into music?4. Imagine that you are going to play a duo concert at the Bergen International Festival in five years. Who would be your duo partner?5. Assuming the corona restrictions eases up a little, what do the next few years look like for you?


1. Thank you very much! The nominees are allowed to submit recordings, and the jury then selects a winner. I was nominated and thus received the award in 2019.2. It has meant a lot, and it is a great honour to have won such a great award and recognition. It was a fantastic experience to play a concert with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra at the award ceremony. With the award, I have also received several concert assignments in Norway.3. Both my parents are musicians, so my enthusiasm for music came quite early. When I was four years old, I started playing the violin with a wonderfully inspiring teacher named Päivikki Wirkkala-Malmqvist. She is very good with children and really makes you find the joy in playing. She, and my current teacher, Per Enoksson, are a big part of why I chose to invest in becoming a musician. I also have many idols who inspired me; e.g. Janine Jansen, Maxim Vengerov and David Oistrakh. It's also very fun to be able to do something that feels creative, and to feel like you're making something that is your own.4. There are many incredibly nice musicians I like to play with! However, it was really fun to play with the fantastic Christian Ihle Hadland this year. If he wants to play with me again in five years, I will be very happy!5. I will be the soloist with Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig with Sakari Oramo, the Czech Philharmonic with Franz Welser-Möst and Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin with Christoph Eschenbach. In the season 2021/22 I have been selected for the European Concert Hall Organization (ECHO) and will play concerts in, among others, Musikverein in Vienna, Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, L'auditori in Barcelona, Cité de la musique in Paris and Elbphilarmonie in Hamburg . I'm also a member of New Generation Artists on the BBC. As a result, I get to play with all the BBC orchestras and at the chamber music concerts that are broadcast on BBC Radio 3.


1. Thank you very much! One to two weeks in advance, I start playing what is to be performed in exactly the same order as in the program. I try not to think about the judges and the spectators in front of me, but instead about the music I am going to perform.2. Winning the Soloist Award is a big deal for me. It gave me a confirmation that I was practicing correctly, at the same time as it was very motivating. I have also received a lot of positive feedback on social media. It feels very nice to be able to show that the accordion can be used in a classical context.3. I have participated in many competitions, both in Norway and abroad, since I was quite young. I achieved many top rankings, and as I am also very fond of playing for an audience, it became a natural choice for me.4. In five years I would like to play with the pianist Marina Kan Selvik.5. I hope that I will participate in many international competitions and play big concerts, some of them with an orchestra. Eventually I also hope to record my own CD in a professional studio.


The Norwegian Soloist Prize, previous winners:

2005: Ingfrid Breie Nyhus, piano

2006: Tine Thing Helseth, trumpet

2007: Christian Ihle Hadland, piano

2008: Eldbjørg Hemsing, violin

2009: Vilde Frang, violin

2010: Guro Kleven Hagen, violin

2011: Jakob Koranyi, cello, Sweden (open to participants from all Nordic countries)

2012: Eivind Holtsmark Ringstad, bratsh

2013: Ellen Nisbeth, bratsj, Sweden (open to participants from all Nordic countries)

2014: Sonoko Miriam Shimano Welde, violin

2015: Eva Kruse Steinaa, oboe, Denmark (open to participants from all Nordic countries)

2016: Ludvig Gudim, violin

2018: Birgitta Elisa Oftestad, cello

2019: Johan Dalene, violin

2020: Mathias Rugsveen, accordion


Johan Dalene, facts:

  • Born in 2000, and began playing violin at the age of four

  • Played his debut performance at the age of seven, together with Norrköping Symphony Orchestra in Sweden.

  • Has won several international competitions, including The Thomas and Evon Cooper International Violin Competition.

  • Has performed with, or will perform with all the major Scandinavian orchestras, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, among others.

  • Is currently a BBC New Generation Artist from 2019-21, and during this time he will perform chamber music and concerts with the BBC orchestras, all broadcast on BBC Radio 3


Mathias Rugsveen, facts:

  • Winner of Virtuos 2020 and the Norwegian Soloist Prize

  • Born in Oslo, 2003. He has been playing the accordion since he was five years old.

  • Reached the finals in Norway’s Got Talent in 2017

  • Has studied accordion with the Russian professor Alexander Dmitriev.

Supported by Vestland County Council

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