The Gardens of Hokkaido

Release date: 2010

Composed by: Knut Vaage

Performed by: Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Einar Røttingen, Ingar Bergby


pf solo, orch: 3(2)-3(1)-3(1)-3(1) 4-2-2-1 timp perc:3 hp cel str


25 minutes

First performance /Commissioned by

First performance in Bergen, 2005
Commissioned by Einar Røttingen

Introduction to The Gardens of Hokkaido...
"The Gardens of Hokkaido explore the journey of sound in space, as a small community of musicians create three-dimensional textures, where the individuals either harmonize or contrast."

ear audience and listeners, The piece you'll soon hear is, so far, the highlight of my collaboration with the pianist Einar Røttingen, who has been a driving force behind ordering and performing new works in our environment. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him, the orchestra, and the conductor Ingar Bergby, who put forward the plans for a larger work for piano and orchestra. The title "The Gardens of Hokkaido" is, as the name suggests, taken from Japan's northernmost island, because the idea itself was born during a conversation Einar Røttingen and I had on a train journey between Sapporo and Tokyo. It is not program music, but the encounter with the Japanese culture, the landscape and the people remains as a memory, and becomes almost like a timbre in the work. In memory, I can still picture patches of pine forest, mountains and sea - and the brilliant light that chased away the claustrophobia after traveling through the world's longest undersea tunnel. The train journey took 12 hours, so I had plenty of time for speculation. It has also taken time to develop this piece as it has been involved in an experimental project in the orchestra to create a workshop for testing new works. This has opened up dialogue between all involved. The musicians have been given the opportunity to provide feedback on the material. All the actors got an insight into the work at an early stage. At the same time, it has also improved the situation around a short trial period, which is often critical for original performances. All in all, the workshop gave us a fruitful and confidence-building process that I hope the orchestra will also let other composers benefit from. When I now had the opportunity to write for piano and orchestra, it was too tempting to comment on Edvard Grieg's A minor concerto. But what in Grieg's work is a powerful opening with the characteristic Grieg falling leitmotif, in this piece is reduced to a delicate falling movement from the back desk of the 2nd violin to the piano's first solitary staccato on the note a. Here all further similarities end, as far as i can see

The Gardens of Hokkaido are in a batch, which develops in a kind of free form. The piece is composed from both sides: an active material from the start onwards, while the calm theme in the work is composed from the end and flows the other way towards the opening of the piece, as if two hands want to grasp each other without completely closing.

It has been important for me in this piece to emphasize the movement of the sound in the room, and in this way to focus on the orchestra's ability to create three-dimensional textures. The idea is that the orchestra, like a small society, consists of many more or less equal individuals in interaction, or in opposition to each other.

Because of these ideas, the orchestra is divided symmetrically in two, with the pianist in the middle, harp and celesta on each side, percussion in a wreath behind, two equal string orchestras which sometimes means that there are 4 basses on each side of the stage. In the same way, the bladders are also divided, e.g. with a flute on each side, piccolo in the middle. A trombone on each side, a tuba in the middle. A trumpet at the end on each side, etc.

So when there is a small solo, it is never just with one musician, but in dialogue or in the form of echo effects that permeate the entire work. The score is planned so that the sound constantly wanders, for example. between soloist and musicians in the orchestra, or expands from the soloist octet which forms a semi-circle led by the strings to gradually include everyone. This texture creates a more chamber-music feel, where more musicians than usual get to participate with solo elements as part of the orchestral texture. Of course, this reorganization of the entire orchestra will create an unfamiliar working situation for the conductor and musicians, and some extra work for the stage manager. So I'm crossing my fingers that it's worth the effort, and that the listener can experience this sense of space in the sound image.

Knut Vaage


"...This also applies to some extent to the three large orchestral works on Knut Vaage's CD, but here the development is more unambiguous, towards greater freedom, greater wealth of associations and stronger discipline. The oldest, "Chaconne" (2000), and the title work , the piano concerto "The Gardens of Hokkaido" (2004), with Einar Røttingen as an outstanding soloist, are dynamic, loud pieces with large discharges of energy and enormous gestures, but they economize little with their instruments and become almost monotonous in parts. In "Kyklop" (2008) on the other hand, a great deal falls into place: excerpts from Stravinsky and Debussy, sharply modernized, form a wild and alien archaic landscape which then becomes the setting for an overwhelming Cyclopean roar and thus also for interesting tensions in the age of music. It is brilliantly done and brilliantly played, and it is concentrated: here Vaage undoubtedly succeeds best when he limits himself. It is a waste to insist on close connections between Vaage and Slettholm, but their records show how they take care of the temporal diversity that the music contains, even if only rarely appears in the world that surrounds it."

"Knut Vaage's music does not deserve to be mystified, it is quite concrete, dramatic, beautiful, wild - one of the pieces he calls 'gardens'."

"The CD's first work is "The Gardens of Hokkaido" for piano and orchestra, masterfully arranged by Einar Røttingen. Here the work is laid out almost like a memory game, where the pianist must "reproduce" the orchestra's partly secret whims. That Zen is central to the work makes it's no less interesting. Here you just have to use the CD booklet for what it's worth. Then you get a lot of exciting approaches to the work."

"The music is organic, and the transitions between cool, sparkling, ascetic, sheltered and lush landscapes are exciting to wander through. Vaage - and the musicians - invite you to be fully present exactly where you are, at the same time you are always curious about what's around The next turn. The balanced dynamic between soloist Einar Røttingen on the piano - who plays pointedly and warmly as usual - and an orchestra which, under the direction of Ingar Bergby, sounds just right. Beautiful. Knut Vaage has composed beautiful "gates" in and out of the Hokkaido paddocks, and is generally skilled in the transitions."