Martin Fröst


Oliver Condy, BBC Music Magazine

The Times

Vinterfest 5th Anniversary manifests the success of Martin Fröst´s artistic leadership (2010 03 01)

This years´ anniversary Vinterfest in Mora, Orsa and Älvdalen contained a kaleidoscope of 17 sold-out concerts during four snowy winter days. Martin Fröst and his invited friends presented breathtaking programmes around the theme of the influence of music on the body. Artists like Tabea Zimmerman, Anne Sophie von Otter, Julian Rachlin, Christian Poltera, Viviane Hagner, Roland Pöntinen, , Igudesman &Joo and the Michelangelo Quartet were inspired by the unique settings and the enthusiastic audience to give outstanding performances. A selection of the festival programme was subsequently presented in a sold out Concert Hall in Stockholm.

The Swedish Television filmed from the whole festival and has again made a full one hour presentation of the festival in a programme which was broadcast on March 21st and which will be accessible on SVT Play until January 27th.(

“I’ve just returned from the “Vinterfest” in Mora, Sweden where a brand new festival has just wrapped up for the year. The new artistic director, clarinettist Martin Fröst, drew on his extensive blackbook.. Some incredible concerts over four days. Recitals were completely sold out and the atmosphere at each event was one of excitement and anticipation.“
Oliver Condy, BBC Music Magazine,

Vinterfest is a new winter chamber music festival set against the shores of the frozen lake Orsa in Sweden’s famously beautiful county of Dalarna, 3 hours drive North of Stockholm. As Artistic Director, Martin Fröst’s inaugral festival took place in 2007 and for the 2008 festival which was running from 14 – 17 February. Guest artists included violinists Janine Jansen and Julian Rachlin, soprano Barbara Hendricks  and trombonist Christian Lindberg.

Concert venues include the Anders Zorn museum which houses the largest and most important collection of works by Sweden’s national painter, the log cabin hotel of “Fryksås“ with its panoramic views and the historic church of Våmhus. With an abundance of winter activities available (ice-skating on the frozen lake, cross country and down-hill skiing, huskie rides through the woods) Vinterfest offers a unique experience in a unique place.

More on the festival at

Martin Fröst, who is one of the few internationally sought after solo clarinettists … has just made his debut as artistic director. It is easy to predict that future concerts will have his particular stamp of programming and this festival already bore the evidence with guest artists such as trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger, pianist Roland Pötinen, folksinger Lena Willmark, who originates from Dalarna, and the maverick Svante Henryson …

Fröst is a fascinating clarinettist, with a flawless technique, which hardly anyone can match in pianissimo passages. The opening three notes at the start of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet KV 581 came literally out of nothing, and one asked oneself how such a legato is possible, that neither the musician’s breathing nor the sounds of the instrument’s lids disturbed the musical flow … The extent of Fröst talents as not only an excellent clarinetist but also a connoisseur of avant garde sound installations became clear in the premiere of “Beyond all Clarinet History”, a crazy collage of works that Fröst enriched with panic-stricken choreography, demonstrating him as an original dancer.

Wolfgang Sandner, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,

A sure success in the snow
It is a crystal clear winter’s morning on the hotel veranda at Fryksås. Below you can see the snow filled landscape which stretches to the sure of the frozen Lake Siljan and beyond to the mountains leading to Norway … Vinterfest, which takes place in Mora, Orsa and Älvdalen, is Sweden’s only winter chamber music festival and, in just its second year it has Martin Fröst as its new artistic director. In character it is a typical summer festival with its relaxed atmosphere, its own mix of repertoire, its international line up of musicians and its rather unusual venues for classical music …

I heard the the Dalasinfoniettan’s concert where the public nearly exploded with alacrtiy in Ävldalen’s church and the Norwegian percurssionist Hans-Kristian Kjos Sörenson’s surreal performance amid the amazed skiers at Grönklitt. But I really began to understand the nature of the festival when I went to Saturday night’s concert in the car testing centre in Mora where Martin Fröst had his own show “Beyond all clarinet history.” Together with the rest of the public we were confronted by blinking digital lights which requested us to leave our car doors open and to put the warning triangles out … Joining in the performance with Fröst were Roland Pöntinen on the piano, Svante Henryson on electric cello and Hans-Kristian Kjos Sörensen on drumset. It was an ensemble which for this evening one should rather call a “band” as, like nightly intruders they sneaked in and out of Bach´s music, bewildering, astonishing and bewitching in amazing remixes of famous partitas, sonatas and sinfonias.

And in a suggestive interplay with music of today: techno, funk and explosive modernism by composers like Fredrik Högberg and Anders Hillborg were all combined.

The last number in the car testing hall was a three-part arrangement of “Ave Maria“ where Roland Pöntinen´s crystal clear piano voice was intervowen with Svante Henrysons glowing cello tone and Martin Fröst´s deepsea-gurgling clarinet. Hardly a prayer to avoid a driving ban. Never before have visitors of this kind of an establishment been more unwilling to drive away.

Vinterfest in Mora, Orsa and Älvdalen is now over for this year. But the view is likely to remain as is the artistic wilfulness, so don´t miss the chance next year to join in.
Martin Nyström, Dagens Nyhter, February 2007

Wonderland in dead of winter
By George Loomis
Published: February 19 2008 18:06

Everyone who seeks to establish a music festival should have the good fortune of Karin Switz. Appointed executive director of the Dala Sinfonietta, a chamber orchestra in the central Swedish province of Dalarna, she concluded that a music festival would help promote the ensemble’s artistic growth. Soon she received word that the dynamic young Swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst was interested in supplying artistic leadership for a new festival, and accordingly Vinterfest was born. “My lucky star was burning,” said Switz after the final concert of the second annual festival last weekend.

Borrowing a page from the Roros festival in Norway, Switz decided to hold the festival in the dead of winter, though winter is hardly a dead time in Dalarna, given its reputation as a winter sport centre. And though the Sinfonietta was the impetus behind the festival, Vinterfest is, like Roros, essentially a chamber music event.

Those familiar with Fröst’s artistry can understand the level of talent he attracts to the villages of Dalarna, which this time included the violinist Janine Jansen and the contralto Anna Larsson, the latter a Dalarna native. “He is probably the world’s leading clarinetist,” says Hakan Hagegard, the renowned baritone who has retired from singing but serves as elder statesman for the festival and supplies introductions to the concerts.

With 14 concerts crammed into four days, Vinterfest has the intensity and high quality, if not the length, of the Kuhmo chamber music festival in northern Finland, but it offers much more in the way of amenities. In keeping with the orchestra’s status as a regional ensemble, concerts take place in different villages; this means that Vinterfest lacks the convenience of having everything within walking distance, but it propels one into the countryside to a variety of inviting venues.

An especially choice one is the log hotel in Fryksas, with its panoramic views of Lake Orsa. There, at a 9.00am breakfast concert on Sunday, Fröst and Jansen together with Maxim Rysanov (viola) and Torleif Thédeen (cello) held forth with a searing account of the Penderecki Clarinet Quartet, led off by Fröst’s riveting playing in the bleak first movement. Jansen and Rysanov also gave a stunning performance of Martinu’s Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola, in which Martinu leavens his tense mode of expression with recourse to folk-like melody.

A concert in the Alfdalen Church, beautifully lit to emphasise its 18th-century elegance, featured the Sinfonietta and its new conductor, the Norwegian Bjarte Engeset, who has recorded extensively for Naxos. They caught the pastoral mood of Vintersaga by Lars-Erik Larsson, a popular Swedish composer whose centenary is celebrated this year, and gave a strong account of the young Bulgarian-born Dobrinka Tabakova’s colourfully eclectic The Court Jester Amareu – Suite in Old Style, in which a harpsichord contributed to an antique atmosphere but much of the discourse was post-Romantic. Jansen, Thédeen and pianist Silke Avenhaus gave a rhythmically bracing account of Dvorák’s “Dumky” Piano Trio No 4 in E minor, op 90.

Fröst’s programming emphasises interesting repertoire rather than an overarching theme, but a concert near Mora, Dalarna’s largest city, focused on the ménage à trois of Robert and Clara Schumann and the young Brahms. Larsson’s deep contralto brought three songs by Clara to life, including the hauntingly beautiful “Sie liebten sich beide” to a text by Heine; if it was eclipsed by Brahms’s sublime “Sapphische Ode”, heard later, so too are most of Brahms’s other songs. Violist Rysanov offered a fine account of Robert’s Märchenbilder, op 73, in which the simple echt Romantic melody of the final movement proved especially effective. On her own the brilliant pianist Avenhaus, who did yeoman work throughout the concert, articulated a case for Clara’s expressive but rather heavy Romance in A minor, op 25.

Woody’s – the local equivalent of Home Depot – was the site for a concert by Christian Lindberg, perhaps the world’s leading trombonist and certainly the most flamboyant. In an atmospherically lit hall of the store, Lindberg placed himself in the composer-performer tradition with three of his own works emphasising virtuosic showmanship. The wind quintet Déjâ connu by another contemporary Swede, Bo Nilsson, proved more conventional but more polished, while the most intriguing work was Jan Sandström’s Cantos de la Mancha for trombone and tape, a dramatisation of four episodes from the saga of Don Quixote dedicated to Lindberg.

I hated to leave during the eloquent second movement, but wanted to hear Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, in which Fröst, Thédeen and Avenhaus were joined by the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto. Fröst’s capacity for shading, including an uncanny ability to produce a tone that grows almost imperceptively out of silence, lent spirituality to the “Abîme des oiseaux” movement, while Thédeen’s playing in “Louage à l’éternité de Jésus” was likewise deeply felt. Kuusisto had more difficulty holding the discursive final movement together.

Lindberg returned for the final concert, in the Mora Church, with his brash and brassy Mandrake in the Corner, an exhilarating, in-your-face concerto in three movements; Svante Henryson’s breezy Vinterfest Overture was also heard, in its world premiere. Otherwise, it was Schubert and Mozart, including the irresistible “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen”, in which Fröst was joined by Barbara Hendricks, whose lyric soprano is beginning to fade but still gives pleasure; Schubert’s piano part was replaced by a nondescript orchestration by Carl Reinecke.

The orchestra under Engeset played agreeably in the Ballet Music from Idomeneo, and the festival closed with Mozart’s captivating Sinfonia Concertante in E flat for Violin and Viola, K 364, which found Jansen and Rysanov on stellar form. The attentive, enthusiastic audience understandably hated to see the evening end. It is composed mainly of local Swedes, but as word of Vinterfest gets out, the audience is bound to become more diverse.

Since 2007, Martin Fröst is the appointed artistic leader of the newly started international chamber music festival “Vinterfest” in beautiful Swedish Dalarna and has recently concluded a much praised second season.

Martin Fröst