Portrait Interview - Sep.03
The Man with the Golden Horn
Ole Edvard Antonsen is securely seated at Peppe's Pizza on Gardermoen Airport, Oslo, devouring his pepperoni slice with calm reflection. He is as gentle as ever, even though the plane was early and the reporters from Oppland Arbeiderblad came late, leaving him to endure yet another idle period of waiting in an airport... It's starting to become a problem that he so rarely is granted a real blowout!
Trumpeter and all that! Antonsen sighs a little between the pizza slices while he thoroughly assesses the reporters from Oppland Arbeiderblad. Could the journalist and graphic designer work as guinea pigs for a major aggressive tantrum? But no, the humorous twinkle in the eye is already back in place, everything smoothens out as it often does for Ole Edvard Antonsen.
The trumpeter from Hamar has once and for all placed himself among the top ranks of Norwegian prominent performers who don't move around with their nose up. It's not possible to get a higher position in this country. When you one day can walk on stage all dressed up in your best tuxedo to bring a blazed audience to ecstasy, and on the following night rip down a rocky version of Rolling Stones Honky Tonk Women in a local night club, while everyone knows that you really belong on the Ham-Kam soccer team as their dreaded goal setter, well, then it is not possible to achieve a higher position in the Norwegian consciousness. This is how we want our heroes - brilliant, yet down to earth common.
So, actually Ole Edvard - there is no need to throw a tantrum or to queen it at this stage of your career. We, and most others with us, want you to stay just the way you are.
Ole Edvard Antonsen has basked in the knowledge of being a celebrity since the early nineties. But celebrity status has its price. No longer can he sneak into a cafe or restaurant unnoticed. Being popular, even highly cherished, does not prevent celebrities from experiencing a double faced attitude from the public. There is always somebody out there who feels the hunch to debunk Antonsen from his pedestal.
It was after Tour de Force in 1993, the cross-over CD which sold 140.000 copies in Norway alone, that the celebrity rush started getting scary for the progressive, young Antonsen. Almost over night he experienced the big leap from being renowned to becoming a star celebrity.
- Everyone wanted a bite of me, and I contributed in so many contexts. It was fun, of course. At least in the beginning. But after a while there was nothing new to write about me, so they started inventing stuff instead. Whatever I said or did not say was used to build fictive stories that would sell to the public. It was a game that I couldn't win. I chose to jump off. I had to get out of this celebrity pressure before it took over my life completely. I had a battle with "Se og Hør" ("Listen and Look" - the Norwegian weekly gossip magazine No.1), and straightened out a couple of things. It was fair enough. Now I have a normal relationship to the press, and I have gained control of my life. But I am probably degraded to somewhere way down the celebrity alphabet, and that feels comfortable, he laughs contentedly.
The classical music's pop-boy no 1 in this country has hit 41 and is living happily together with his stunning partner Tone and their three old son Ole Marius in a timber house in the outskirts of Oslo. But his untidy hair still falls charmingly down in front of his eyes, his curiosity for life exceeds earlier levels, and his traveling days and concerts as numerous as ever...
- I still think that I have achieved a better balance in my life. It is not so tempting to be away from home when I know that big things are happening to the toddler while I'm gone. I still accept most gigs if I am able to, but I may have become a bit more selective. Life has actually more to offer than music, says Ole Edvard seriously.
To him, this must be a fairly new understanding. All the way back to his younger days at Hamar with two brothers in a family where music was the corner stone, has music been the alpha and omega of his life. It started with piano playing at age three, continued with cornet playing at age five when the piano was moved down into a dark, spooky basement, and ended up with the trumpet when his arms had acquired the necessary length. Six years old he gave his debut as soloist with his father's dance band in front of an enthusiastic audience of 2500. And that was it, actually, it just had to be music, always more music.
- It is said that I had to be chased away from the instrument so that I should have time to play. I can't remember it like this though. I think that I got my share of having fun with friends. The music thing went on and off, it happened that I had to be chased in to practice too. That I had buddies who were willing to wait until I had finished practicing, fills me with everlasting thankfulness. Those are my real friends!
10 years old Ole Edvard became the student of the legendary trumpet professor Harry Kvebæk together with his one year younger brother Jens Petter. And Kvebæk did not conceal his ambitions. Something big had to come out of this, if just Ole Edvard could stop messing around with all those styles of music... But Ole Edvard laughed and stated that no one could ever get enough music of any kind!
But things should come to a sudden stop anyway. Oral surgeons stood ready to cut his lip string which was far too tight. The whole procedure should have been a piece of cake, but for a 14 year old trumpet-star-to-be it was a small tragedy.
- I actually think that it was harder on Harry than me. I had my soccer playing to keep me happy, and quickly adjusted my dreams for the future to earn a place on Ham-Kam and later the national soccer team.
Ole Edvard Antonsen managed to acquire a position on the junior team as their top scorer, before the lips were ready for his trumpet again.
- My father was scolded by the soccer coach when he told him that Ole Edvard had to quit soccer now to focus on the trumpet instead.
But Ole Edvard understood it well enough himself. He really wanted to become a musician, and there was no easy going way to get there. Only three things mattered: practice, practice, and practice... When he graduated from the Norwegian State Academy of Music, it was with the best mark ever given on his instrument. The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra opened its trumpet section to him. Life and music was all ready for him conquer it all!
And Ole Edvard helped himself to the different musical dishes with an unstoppable greed. The mornings were spent rehearsing with the philharmonic, the afternoons were devoted to studio playing, in the evenings the theater needed his voice before he ended up in a jazz club. Harry Kvebæk was concerned. This diversity - wasn't he riding too many horses at the same time now? Wasn't time due to head on for a real soloist career? Well, yes, perhaps... Ole Edvard directed all his efforts towards a soloist competition in Geneva - and won! Perhaps it wasn't so impossible after all, what Harry had been talking about all along...
But it wasn't so simple. Soloist assignments weren't abundant. In the beginning it happened that the expenses for travels and hosting exceeded his pay... The current situation is pleasurably different from the hard times back then.
- But this doesn't mean that I can kick back and relax. In this game it is only your last concert that counts. I still don't feel like relaxing on the number of gigs that I accept. It is important to keep both the market and your relations warm in this business.
Keeping the tempo up and always giving the best has taken a toll. Twice he has been down there where no light exists... The first time he managed to crawl out on his own. The next time he decided to ask for professional help.
- It was touch, of course, but I don't think that I would have wanted to miss this experience in life. You experience human growth working through periods like this, you get to know yourself better including the entire specter of your emotional palette. For me it has truly contributed to my further development as musician.
Ole Edvard is still on his way. He is constantly experimenting with new sounds and musical expressions. Drawing pins/Thumbtacks in the mouthpiece, cardboard cups in front of the bell, there are almost no objects within his reach that haven't been tried out to distort the trumpet sound in new and meaningful ways. At the same time he is collaborating with composers around the world about new works for trumpet, and trying out new cross-over options is an obligation to him.
- I have received many warnings from the higher cultural circles. They say that I can destroy myself as a classical performer if I focus on too many musical idioms. They are of course wrong. I am dependent on this rotation of my musical "crops". The one inspires and explores the other. That's why I look so much forward to the concerts with my father's project band. What I experience there is having musically fun on a very high level, says Ole Edvard Antonsen.
He likes to play, this Mr. Antonsen...
Interview by Anne Hoff Bakke
Drawing by Herbjørn Skogstad
Translation by Vera Hørven