Stockholm International Composer Festival

The Stockholm International Composer Festival was born as a unique and controversial idea in the mid-1980s, but still survives today. Not many people believed in the concept before the launch of the first festival. But now the Composer Festival is among the true flagship events for Konserthuset and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.

Konserthuset’s huge annual Composer Festival was founded in 1986 and quickly became an essential element of both Swedish and international music scenes. The fundamental idea – to spend an intensive period featuring modern, established composers – has proven to be successful both artistically and among audiences.

Upon taking over the position in 1986, former executive director Åke Holmquist launched the first Composer Festival in Konserthuset. He explains: “I had thought a lot about new music and how hard it is to get it out there. Why is it that far too often, so many festivals only involve the inner circle of listeners? What could we do to attract more people to come and discover music?”

The answer was a week-long Composer Festival featuring only one composer. A picture of complete artistry, with absolutely no compromises when it comes to quality. The actual presence of the composer was one important concept. Another was that the concerts should be interspersed with lectures and other types of presentations. The third essential cornerstone was that the festivals should be included in Konserthuset’s ordinary programme offering and concert subscriptions.

First up was Swedish virtuoso Ingvar Lidholm. The festivals have included not only concerts, but also – very much in accordance with the original idea – a deepened understanding of the composer through related activities such as meetings, film screenings and exhibitions. The major audience breakthrough came with the Alfred Schnittke festival in 1989.

History of the Stockholm International Composer Festival

  • 1986 Ingvar Lidholm
  • 1987 Witold Lutoslawski
  • 1988 Lars-Erik Larsson
  • 1989 Alfred Schnittke
  • 1990 Karl-Birger Blomdahl
  • 1991 Five at the Sixth (the previous years’ composers, plus György Ligeti)
  • 1992 Daniel Börtz
  • 1993 Krzysztof Penderecki
  • 1994 Sven-David Sandström
  • 1995 Arvo Pärt
  • 1996 Anders Eliasson
  • 1997 Sir Michael Tippett
  • 1998 Ingvar Lidholm
  • 1999 Anders Hillborg/Jan Sandström/Pär Lindgren
  • 2000 Sofia Gubajdulina
  • 2001 Lars Ekström/Bent Sørensen/Rolf Wallin
  • 2002 Kaija Saariaho and Magnus Lindberg
  • 2003 Henri Dutilleux
  • 2004 Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • 2005 John Adams
  • 2006 Hans Werner Henze
  • 2007 Tan Dun
  • 2008 Kimmo Hakola and Rolf Martinsson
  • 2009 Thomas Adès
  • 2010/11 Steve Reich
  • 2011 Brett Dean
  • 2012 Per Nørgård
  • 2013 Unsuk Chin
  • 2014 Anders Hillborg
  • 2015 The Boulanger Sisters
  • 2016 Oliver Knussen
  • 2017 HK Gruber
  • 2018 Thea Musgrave
  • 2019 George Benjamin
  • 2020–21 No festivals due to the pandemic
  • 2022 Olga Neuwirth
  • 2023 Jörg Widmann