Gunnar Idenstam, concert organist, composer and folk musician, is internationally recognized for his virtuosic playing, stunning improvisations and untraditional approach to organ music. Firmly grounded in classical music, but with an enduring love for the folk and symphonic rock music of the 1970s and a great interest in Swedish folk music, Gunnar Idenstam aims to expand his audiences’ appreciation of the organ and to transcend the limitations of genre. Not restricting himself to the traditional organ repertoire, he builds bridges between French cathedral music, symphonic rock and folk music.
The foundations for this wide-ranging music-making were laid during studies at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and in Paris, where Idenstam studied the French organ tradition with the legendary Marie-Claire Alain. In both countries he was awarded the highest distinctions, and in 1984 he became the first – and to date, the only – Scandinavian organist to win the Grand Prix de Chartres, the prestigious international competition in improvisation. Since 1986 Idenstam has pursued a concert career and performs in venues such as Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional, the Église Saint-Eustache in Paris, the Kölner Philharmonie, the Mariinsky Concert Hall in St Petersburg, the Spivey Hall in Atlanta and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall. He is also in demand at music festivals including the Risør Chamber Music Festival, Lahti Organ Festival, Karlsruher Orgelsommer, Potsdamer Musikfestspiele, Europäische Wochen in Passau and Stavanger Chamber Music Festival.
Among Idenstam’s collaborators are folk musicians such as Johan Hedin (nyckelharpa) and Lisa Rydberg (violin), Christian Lindberg (trombone), Anders Paulsson (soprano saxophone), ABBA legend Benny Andersson, and the dancer and choreographer Virpi Pahkinen. In 2012 the Royal Swedish Academy of Music presented Idenstam with its prestigious ‘Interpretpris’, electing him a member the following year. Also in 2013 he received the royal Litteris et Artibus medal, in recognition of his outstanding artistic contributions in the field of music.