• Home
  • Festival
  • 2021
  • Articles
  • Siljustøl
By: Ketil Mosnes
June 01, 2021

Harald Sæverud's composers' home is one of Bergen International Festival’s most beautiful arenas.

- For me, a mountain farm is the centre of the world, Harald Sæverud once said. Sæverud - considered one of Norway's foremost composers - had his new home built at Siljustøl in 1939. Strongly inspired by old storehouses and farmhouses from the Telemark and Setesdal areas in Norway, Sæverud wanted something 'simple and beautiful...with bare wood and skewed angles.' The main building was designed by architect Ludolf Eide Parr in collaboration with Sæverud himself, and the nature around the 176-acre natural area eventually became one of the composer's most important sources of inspiration. There, he could realise the dream of living in close contact with nature, and every morning he walked barefoot out into the wet grass that he thought would have a healing effect.The property in Ytrebygda outside Bergen city center was a wedding gift from Sæverud's mother-in-law, the Norwegian-American Madsella Hvoslef. It was bequeathed in 1984 to a foundation called ‘Marie Hvoslef and Harald Sæverud's foundation for the promotion of Norwegian music and visual arts’.In 1997 - 100 years after the composer's birth - Siljustøl officially opened as a museum. The museum's main purpose is ‘to promote knowledge of Harald Sæverud's life and music’, and if you visit Siljustøl today you will be able to experience the composer's study, grand piano and personal belongings, all in the same condition as he left it in when he died in 1992. The museum consists of both the building itself and the surrounding walking area, and is a part of KODE Art Museums and composers' homes.Bergen International Festival has arranged concerts at Siljustøl since 1994.

Harald Sæverud (1897–1992)

Harald Sæverud was born at Nordnes in Bergen on April 17, 1897. Among his most famous works are Rondo amoroso, Sinfonia Dolorosa and not least Kjempeviseslåtten.

Sæverud wrote his first symphony at the age of 18, and received a lot of positive attention when it was performed in Kristiania (Oslo). The attention also led to the promising composer receiving a scholarship from the Norwegian state, and in 1920 he travelled to Berlin for a two-year stay at a music college there.When Sæverud returned to Bergen, he made a living as a composer, piano teacher and music critic. He also wrote several piano pieces and symphonies during this period, despite the fact that he had problems finding form and content in his works.

The turning point came during the WW2 era, when Sæverud composed Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 (Sinfonia Dolorosa) and 7, all of which are considered central to his production. During the same period, he also wrote several piano pieces, including Kjempeviseslåtten, which was dedicated to the 'Home Front's big and small fighters'. In 1948, Sæverud made a furore by composing the music for Ibsen's Peer Gynt. The music represented something new and radical, and broke with Grieg's tonal language. The premiere led to booing and demonstrations, however it also created great excitement and received rave reviews. Sæverud's Peer Gynt music has since been considered one of his most important works.In the 50s and 60s he wrote, among other things, the Piano Concerto from 1950, the Violin Concerto from 1956, Symphony no. 8 and 9, as well as the ballet music for Knight Bluebeard's Nightmare and the Bassoon Concerto from 1963.

Harald Sæverud was awarded the Norwegian State's artist's salary in 1953, and was appointed commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav in 1977. As recently as 1986, he was elected festival composer at the Bergen International Festival.

Supported by Vestland county council

Sign up for our newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter