Kjetil Bjerkestrand presents a mass for the dead on his new album.For the first time in 40 years Kjetil Bjerkestrand has written a composition that has not been commissioned for a project.So what did he choose to write? A mass for the dead.

This work has now been released on CD and vinyl, and it is a powerful, tremendously moving experience to listen to it. Arve Tellefsen (violin) and Live Maria Roggen (vocals) play key roles, surrounded by strings and electronics forming a colourful and dynamic landscape around them. Øystein Moen and Kjetil Bjerkestrand play Minimoog Voyager, and on strings we hear the Trondheim soloists led by their concert master Tino Fjeldli.

The work has seven movements, and the old mass texts are performed in Latin and English.

Through his long career Kjetil Bjerkestrand has written music in countless genres, and has always been much-sought after for collaborations with artists and orchestras, in addition to releasing records under his own name (“Piano poems” KKV 2010). This is how he explains why he composed this work without a commission or deadline:

  • Some years ago my doctor told me that I needed to step back a bit and take sick leave, I’d been pushing myself a bit too hard. So I asked him. Does that mean I can’t even write music? Sure you can he said, but no deadlines. That’s when I started to write “Stabat Mater”, movement by movement, never thinking that it needed to be finished by any particular date. I could really have called the work “Stabat Mater – music with no deadline”.

Kjetil Bjerkestrand’s friend and collaboration partner over many years, the violinist Arve Tellefsen, listened to some of what he was working on and immediately expressed his wish to have the work presented for the first time at the Oslo Kammermusikkfestival (Festival of Chamber Music) in 2017. And so it was to be. When working on the composition, Kjetil’s father passed away. His father’s peaceful passing led him to conclude the dramatic, at times quite dark work with the lyrical and endlessly beautiful movement “Into Paradise”, dedicated to his father.

The album cover is “Rainbow Crucifixion” by Sverre Bjertnæs, a picture Kjetil Bjerkestrand kept close by during the entire writing process. It depicts a crucified Christ against a rainbow background. Stabat Mater in Latin means “The mother stood there,” and with this choice of motif on the front page the composer indicates that the listener is entering into Jesus’ mother’s situation, looking upon her dying son.

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