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Alfred Janson

Born in 1937, Alfred Janson was a key figure among the young composers who emerged in the beginning of the 1960s. With a background in jazz and popular music he seemed to represent a new era, and this was confirmed by works such as Construction and Hymn and Nocturne. With the sound collage Valse triste for jazz quartet and audio tape based on a recording of a televised cultural debate, Janson’s sharp satirical vein was revealed to a wider audience. The piece became the crowning example of the breakthrough of popular culture into the general media. This was probably nothing more than a lucky instance of being in sync with ‘the spirit of the age’, however: Alfred Janson had already been active for several years as a pianist and jazz musician by then. He continued to write his own music, seemingly independently of the current ‘-isms’. Throughout the 1970s and 80s he produced several orchestral works which attracted notice and caused debate – the dedication of a work to Arne Treholt, convicted of treason and espionage in 1985, was regarded by many as a political statement, although it seems more likely to have been a question of Janson taking a moral stand. In 1988 he composed the gently ironic Nasjonalsang (National Anthem), a colourful journey through a national-romantic landscape. In spite of its title, Janson scored it for orchestra, but vocal music has nevertheless been one of the cornerstones of his production. As we are now presented with the opportunity to listen to his choral works from five decades, an inner logic becomes obvious – one that isn’t obscured by stylistic shifts or the pursuit of popular success. At the end of the day what counts is the composer’s belief in the importance of music, in the expressive power of the work, and his respect for the freedom of the performer.

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