Henning Kraggerud has been a major driving force for the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Together they have turned Baroque music into a hit in Tromsø, played new compositions by Norwegian composers and undertaken exciting musical-literary collaboration. Moreover, Kraggerud has composed music which the orchestra plays and they have released several critically acclaimed albums.
Henning, you have played an important role in the development of the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra in recent years. How have you experienced being the orchestra’s Artistic Director?
It’s extremely rewarding for me to be able to work with such a wonderful orchestra over such a long period. The orchestra has many strengths, one of the most important of which is an enormous desire to strive for continuous improvement.
Are there any projects you particularly enjoy?
We often collaborate with authors. I find this extremely inspiring and there’s another important aspect to it. When words meet tones on the stage, the words often account for almost half the time of the concert. In other words, we have had twice as much time to work on each minute of music during rehearsals. We can use this time to work in depth in a way that orchestral life in classical music doesn’t normally allow.
As my wife says: You always look so happy when you are going to or returning from Tromsø.
You play all round the world with many recognised orchestras and musicians. What do you really appreciate about your trips to Tromsø?
A lot. I really appreciate being able to work with the same people regularly, especially since the atmosphere is so good. When I play as a soloist, I play with an orchestra for a week then may not work with them again for several years. I have been in at least 65 different countries and I believe Tromsø is one of the finest places on earth. Besides, few cities of Tromsø’s size have so many good restaurants. I also have family who live near Tromsø who I always visit.
What’s your most important task as the leader of a group of creative individuals in an orchestra? How do you achieve the best possible interplay and result?
The most important thing is to always work to achieve something you really believe in. If the common musical goal is good enough, the technique will take care of itself. But if the technique becomes the main goal, you will lose the joy of playing and the playing will be worse from a technical perspective too.
I’m interested in having clear characters, a great joy of playing, room for musical gestures and, not least, listening for the intrinsic emotions of the music.
If you look back, what would you single out as your most special experiences together with the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra?
That’s the fun part. More than half our concerts have been highlights of my career. As my wife says: You always look so happy when you are going to or returning from Tromsø.
What’s your vision for the orchestra going forward?
Like always when you want to go forward, you need to introduce new ways of thinking. Retain the best we have in our toolbox, dare to try something new, evaluate what works then be daring and creative again. I also have a burning desire to invite guest leaders who are better than me in something so the orchestra can try something new. For instance, I’m really looking forward to when Tognetti, the leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, guests us. He’s one of the most genial and demanding leaders I know.
How do you manage to maintain balance in your life with all the travel you do, not to mention all the changes concerning repertoire, role, country, concert hall and ensemble?
Haha. Actually, I don’t think I manage that. My sleep if often effected when the day doesn’t have enough hours in it.
Can you tell us about any interests you have apart from playing music? Do any other art forms interest you?
I love films, books and theatre. My favourite authors are Ishiguro and Murakami and I think I’ve read everything they have written. I also enjoy swimming and going on walks with one or more cameras in my pockets.
What made you choose music as a livelihood and how did you end up playing the violin?
Good question. I was 13 the first time I thought about that and I realised that I had already made that choice long ago.
Can you say something about yourself that not everyone already knows?
The best thing I know is sitting on the sofa and watching TV while eating potato crisps and dip (but more recently the latter has been replaced by healthy vegetables and quark dip). I watch everything from the most serious programmes to talk shows or the 6 o’clock news. I often practice the violin while I’m watching sub-titled TV programmes. It’s a brilliant way to learn by heart because if you look at the music too much, you can’t follow the programme! For instance, I rehearsed for the Janacek Quartet when Northug won a 50km ski race a few years ago. I was really inspired and came up with some brilliant phrasing straight after that final sprint.