Interview with Christian Ihle Hadland

The Lofoten Piano Festival will be held for the 4th time in 2020. Characteristic for the piano festival is that the artistic director is changed every time. In 2018 we were fortunate to have the French pianist Bertrand Chamayou as artistic director. For the Lofoten Piano Festival 2020 we have the pleasure of introducing the Norwegian pianist Christian Ihle Hadland as artistic director.

Christian Ihle Hadland, artistic director for Lofoten Pianofestival 2020.
You are engaged as artistic director for the Lofoten Piano Festival 2020. What does this assignment mean for you in practice?

– First and foremost it is to find and invite musicians, put together a program and decide on venues. I also have to adjust the workload to the musicians, a good combination of known and unknown repertoire. Then, I have to consider who is suitable for playing together and which works are suitable for which premises. And not least, that every concert program is neatly put together. There is simply a lot to think about.

Lofoten Piano Festival has received attention for its high artistic quality – also outside Norway. Mostly, this is because of top level international musicians. Accessing these requires a certain network. How did you build your own?

– When I graduated, no one talked about building networks. One were encouraged to stay in touch with good musicians and otherwise jump at the opportunities that came. This is how it is today, even though one may try to complicate it with just too many words.

Talking about musicians at this level it must be difficult to find the right ones. How do you pick out the artists for the festival?

– When it comes to finding pianists, it has always been most interesting for me to inquire with non-pianists about who they prefer. One thing is to deliver a stunning piano concert by Brahms with great sound and energy. Something else is to work as a chamber musician with others – although they can be phenomenal for this as well. Strings can often tell more about responsiveness, timbre and the ability to inspire – and this is exactly what one needs for a piano festival that is also a chamber music festival.

We know that some audience members come from afar, also to experience Lofoten. The fact that the festival is located in Lofoten, does this mean anything to the musicians?

– I think Lofoten is an extreme plus – everyone has heard about the place. Musicians also accept longer travel routes and long local distances as long as they get Lofoten into the bargain. Lofoten in July is probably more tempting than anything else, I must say.

How far have you come with the artists and the program?

– All the musicians are in place (knock on wood!). Now the program remains, but there I already have a solid plan. Much has fallen into place. The opening and final concerts are always the hardest! The musicians are largely able to announce their own wishes, while I sit with an authoritative hand on the steering wheel.

You are a pianist yourself, but you might get inspiration from other types of music as well?

– Besides classical music, the answer is “sometimes”. I like to hear some ’60s music occasionally, as well as having some “guilty pleasures” on YouTube that should be kept secret. But in classical music, I actually prefer to listen to something other than piano music. It probably has something to do with hearing and working so much with the sound of the piano itself. The need is simply saturated when I sit down and listen to other types of music. I especially listen to vocal music: songs, opera, church music. Especially the cantatas of Bach. But of course I listen to piano music too, I should not pretend otherwise. Especially Svjatoslav Richter (1915-1997). I never get enough of his sound!

Can you reveal something that you will be performing during the festival yourself?

– Not too many disclosures before the program launch! But the midnight sun calls for perhaps the most beautiful piano work written – the Goldberg variations by Johann Sebastian Bach – so we should probably find room for that.