Tim Reynish June 2016

Back in 2003, one of my favorite works in the Jönköping WASBE Conference was Cantilena by Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen for Trombone and Wind Orchestra and I am delighted that his name is the first entry in Felix Hauswirth’s 8th edition of 1000 Selected Works, Arctic Landscape. I am extremely remiss in not listening to more of his music and writing about a very important Norwegian composer, sadly more appreciated by our brass band colleagues than in wind band circles.

Born in Oslo 11th January, 1964 end educated at the Bergen Conservatory of Music (now known as the Grieg Academy) where he gave occasional lectures in theory and instrumentation from 1990 until 1994. From 1992 to 1993 he arranged and composed for the Norwegian Army Band, Bergen, writing among other works Arctic Landsape. He is very active as a conductor and as a composer especially for brass bands, and is one of the most highly considered composer for wind orchestras in Scandinavia. Aagaard-Nilsen works as conductor of various school and amateur orchestras, and also as a teacher but is mainly occupied as a freelance composer and conductor with a little bit of teaching and lecturing at theManger Folkehøgskule. He founded the forum Av garde together with Ketil Hvoslef, Jostein Stalheim and Knut Vaage.

1992 Arctic Landscape for Wind Ensemble

1994 Preludium for Symphonic Band

1994 Triade - "The Angels of Destruction" for large wind ensemble

1994 Cornet Concerto with brass band, later with wind, wind band version premiered in Trondheim by Erlend Aagaard-Nilsen conducted by Christian Lindberg

1998 Pang - Introduction No. 4 for Symphonic Band

1999 Concerto for Large Wind Ensemble (Pentagram

2002 Cantilena I - Cradle Song for solo trombone and wind band

2002 Winds of Changes for Wind Ensemble" (Recordinglabel SIMAX

2002 Cantilena 1 for Trombone and wind band

2004 Pentagram Concerto for large wind orchestra

2003 Cantilena II - Mountain Song for euphonium and wind ensemble

2004 The Playground Project

2005 Cantilena III for 3 trombones and wind ensemble

2011 Frånarormen for piano and wind ensemble

2012 Litania for woodwind ensemble

2012 Fancies for woodwind ensemble

2012 Panorama for symphonic band

2013 Ljodgata for wind band

2015 Dirty Dancing

I hope that this partial listing will interest readers in exploring his music. Below are notes by the composer on particular works. I can find very little of his wind band music on Youtube, apart from Dirty Dancing (see below), but the brass band work CIRCIUS gives a good idea of his energetic sometimes jazzy style, and the contrast in his very beautiful lyrical writing.


The Swedish national wind band plays "Dirty Dancing" by Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen. Conductor: Rune Hannisdal

Dirty Dancing won the Publishers Prize 2016 for best music in the Classical/contemporary category.

The piece is published by <Norsk Noteservice AS>

Torstein writes:

Thanks to Christiania Wind Ensemble and Trond Husebø who did the first performance and conducted the piece in Trondheim when CWE won the Norwegian Championship for wind band in 2015. Thanks also to conductor Peter S. Szilvay who actually had the initial idea for the piece
Thanks to my publisher of music for wind- and brass band, Norsk Noteservice AS.

In November 2014, the conductor Peter Szilvay, on behalf of Christiania Wind Ensemble (Oslo), commissioned me a piece . He was looking for a quite short piece of music, effective, intense and dance-like.
He mentioned A Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams, and I answered his request by writing my piece, Dirty Dancing. It is a rather easy listening piece that play with riffs and rhythms.

Szilvay did not conduct the premiere of the piece. Trond Husebø took over and conducted the premiere the 7th of March 2015 in Oslo. Two weeks later the band and Mr. Husebø won the Elite Section at the Norwegian Championship with Dirty Dancing as the opening piece.

Commissioned by Manger Musikklag with support from The Norwegian Renumeration Fund. “Concerto for Bb Cornet and Brass Band” is dedicated to Rune Gundersen who premiered the piece in Bergen 08 May 1994

The piece is written in a classical three movement concerto form. I knew the soloist I was writing for very well, and could make the solo part based on his strengths as a cornet player.

A show-off for the soloist. No traditional entrance, thou. The soloist just start to play, joining the fanfare-like dotted motives
The soloist stands alone in a cold atmosphere. The movement is called "melody" but no real melody is heard. It is more like something that could have been a melody.
A varied movement, like being improvised, and new ideas occur all the way. The final part that is based on modern rhythms, and end the piece in a "scherzoso"-way.

LJODGATA (2013) for Wind Band

Commissioned by Hovin Musikkorps

The old Norwegian name Ljodgata means the main road. This road (or path) has existed since the iron age. In 12 century christians walked from Oslo to Nidaros (Trondheim) to visit the Cathedral containing the tomb of King Olav the Holy.

Part 1 – The Tomb and the Church is a musical picture of religious activities in the area. The tomb of King Rakne, one of the largest graves in the northern Europa is now a monument in the area, even if Hovin Church has been a symbol of christianity since the 1400 century.
Part 2 The Woods of Trandum Pictures the military activities that has been going on for more than 250 years. During the 2nd World War, an execution of innocent people took place in the woods.
Part 3 – Jetset Picture of the present. The international airport at Gardermoen has made the village Jessheim become a town. People now live modern city lives.


Night is a calm, slow piece of music. Almost like an ancient chant.


(2012) for Symphonic Band (dur: 32)

Sandvikens Ungdomskorps is a symphonic band from Bergen which celebrated their 90th anniversary in 2013. They became Norwegian champions by winning the elite section in 2011 conducted by Tormod Flaten. Now regarded as one of the leading symphonic bands in Norway.

Bergen is the second biggest city in Norway and is famous for the seven mountains that surround the city centre. In this piece I salute the band that commissioned the piece by picturing the mountains in music that forms a suite in seven movements.

1) Lyderhorn: some people are certain that witches gather here.

2) The sun rise seen from Damsgårdsfjellet.

3) Løvstakken is a favourite among local ramblers.

4) Ulriken is the highest and the most prominent and dominant of all the mountains.

5) Fløyfjellet is probably the most famous place both among the citizens and tourists.

6) On Rundemanen you get this great feeling being a part of the nature.

7) On Sandviksfjellet a celebration is going on. Music that has a dance character and evolves and builds towards the end.

Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen



Concerto for Large Wind Ensemble - Pentagram was commissioned by James Gourlay with support from the Norwegian Composers Fund for RNCM Wind Orchestra and I have dedicated it to him.

It was first performed as a part of the BASBWE Conference in 2002 by RNCM Wind Orchestra conducted by Clark Rundell.

1. Call and Awakening
2. Ritual I
3. De Profundis
4. Ritual II
5. Call and Conclusion

Concerto for Large Wind Ensemble was mainly composed the autumn of 2001. Like most artist, I also was influenced by the horrible terror attacks on the USA. Especially the central movement.

The five movements create a symmetric pattern with the third movement, De Profundis, as the central movement. This movement contains two contrasting elements: a powerful and mighty tuba-quartet and a Bach-chorale Ach Gott, erhör mein seufzen und wehklagen (BWV 254) (Oh God, hear my sigh and complain of grieve).

The chorale is played very softly so what we mainly hear is the four tubas (two basses and two euphoniums) and material derived from the tuba-music that occurs in other parts.

In the second movement (Ritual I) the attraction point is a duet between Marimba and Xylophone and a drum part that keep playing a simple pattern. The short notes played by Wood Wind and Brass are derived from two different rhythmic and harmonic patterns that only meets occasionally.

The fourth movement (Ritual II) I use the same material as the second movement, but I tell a completely different story. However, the two movements is meant to be to sides of the same case.

The first movement is slow music (Call and Awakening). A trumpet plays a figure that is repeated in english horn and in two echo-parts (Clarinet and Oboe). The music grows towards a short fanfare passage for full brass section and Timpani/Percussion. This is followed by soft, murmuring music before the solo clarinet comes through and ends the movement.

In the fifth movement (Call and Conclusion) I completed the idea about symmetry. After a short tutti passage of fanfare like music, I again use a solo clarinet. But this time it has a much bigger and challenging role. After a cadenza the clarinet playes the notes that ended the first movement. What follows is some reworked material from the beginning of the first movement (basically in retrograde), until the music fades away.

Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen