The Knut Reiersrud Band and KORK (Norwegian Radio Orchestra) have had “conversations with Dvorak and Beethoven”, resulting in an album titled “A New World"

Selecting movements from Dvorak’s 9th “New World” Symphony and Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, they have expanded  both music and format dramatically. A German wholesaler refused to distribute the album – fearing reactions in the classical societies on the Continent.

Recording the album was an extraordinary experience to say the least. Here is what Knut Reiersrud has to say about the process:

How do you tell 70 women and men in a symphony orchestra that “I’m not quite satisfied with the guitar solo, can we do it again?” Or “Please wait, I need to go to the toilet”. That was the way it was when we met in the Store Studio (a large hall in the Norwegian Radio building), KORK and my band. I was nervous. But here we were, with newly edited scores by Beethoven and Dvorak, subtitled “Eggen/Reiersrud edition”.

The boys in the band appeared quite unperturbed, chatting about getting their children to various kindergartens. But I was seriously unsettled, and when the orchestra started its more or less ceremonial tuning, I HAD to go. I ran through three doors, found a toilet, frantically unzipped, finished and ran back. Inside the studio a unanimous whisper met me, “hssshh”, a nonplussed conductor, Eggen, stared holes in me and said: “We have started recording…”.

The rest was like floating along a river. The violins playing the opening of Dvorak sounded so soothing that I was filled with an eerie sense of destiny. How I wish all musicians once in their life could sit like this in the middle of a symphonic orchestra! Slowly but surely this mood came to me which I have rarely experienced, only once or twice: Don’t think. Just listen to the others and fill in with what comes to you.

During the break Christian Eggen came over to me and said, “There’s no need to be so shy. Just tell me if there’s something you want differently!”. “Okay,” I said, deciding to use not one but two amplifiers – now that Dvorak was going from major to minor. And just when I had been planning to change from a cosy lap steel guitar to a white Gibson SG with three pickups and tremolo bar.

The Knut Reiersrud band, in addition to Knut himself (guitar and miscellaneous instruments), is David Wallumrød (keyboards), Nikolai Hængsle (bass), Bjørn Holm (guitar) and Andreas Bye (drums).

This is not the first time this gang is taking on the classics. In 2012, “Infinite Gratitude” was released, where they met the Trondheim Soloists and made a record based on music by Brahms and Schubert. Now, when taking on a whole symphony orchestra, they are lifting the dynamics and sound qualities many notches higher, and no more daunting can it be than to take on symphonic works that are so important a part of European music history. With Dvorak’s work as the starting point, which is based on American folk music, they have built a bridge between two worlds that meet here anew.

KORK is conducted by Christian Eggen. “A New World” has been recorded in Store Studio in Oslo and mixed by Mattias Glavå in Kungsten Studios in Gothenburg.

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