Norwegian Musical Heritage

Norwegian Musical Heritage is a major national endeavour to secure that the works of Norwegian composers are conveyed to a wide audience through philological research, critical editing and publication. Of equal importance is the preservation of the musical sources through digitization.


Norwegian Musical Heritage (NMH) was created in response to increasing frustration about the condition of the Norwegian musical sources. A broad consensus was established – among performers, in libraries and archives, in the research institutions and the educational institutions – that it was necessary to secure the sources and make the music become available through editions of high quality.

Many works are only available in manuscript form and often in handwritings difficult to read. A large amount of autograph scores have been used for performances, and they are thus full of confusing annotations. The old prints are generally difficult to obtain since several of the publishers no longer exist. Neither are the old editions always reliable. In many cases editing is crucial to bring works to life again. Norwegian conductors and performers have in many years struggled with unsatisfactory scores and performance material. They have often accepted such bad material motivated by their quest to make the Norwegian musical tradition stay alive and healthy. But it has been difficult to promote the music internationally without acceptable editions. This situation also has affected research on Norwegian music; a decent score is mandatory for the understanding of the music of an epoch, a composer or a tradition.

Some scores were edited and published through financing by the Norwegian Cultural Council, but a broader effort was needed. Through the initiative of the Norwegian Composers’ Association, the National Library and the MIC – the Music Information Centre - a white paper about the condition of our national musical heritage was presented and discussed in 2008. The publication “Vern og publisering av den klassiske norske musikkarven” (Conservation and publication of the Norwegian classical music heritage) presented an evaluation of the general condition of the score material left by deceased Norwegian composers. (see the link to the Norwegian version below.)

The specialist group recommended in this publication the formation of a project that could coordinate the necessary efforts to rebuild our musical heritage through digitization, research, scholarly editions and publication of the scores. The paper indicated also that priority could be given to certain composers and their works.

The outcome was that some central musical institutions in 2010 joined forces to form Norwegian Musical Heritage.

Basically, NMH falls into two parts:

The National Library heads and coordinates all aspects of conservation, cataloguing and digitalization of the sources. This is defined as a regular part of the Library’s work, and it is financed by the Library.

The research and edition part of NMH is a joint collective endeavor involving teams of musicology scholars from the University of Oslo, the University of Bergen, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim), the University of Tromsø, the Norwegian Academy of Music and the research section of the National Library. Also performers, scholars and experts outside institutions join this work. The leadership and coordination of this second part of NMH is financed by The Norwegian Culture Council and the University of Oslo (UiO).


Norwegian Musical Heritage is organized as a consortium of institutions. One representative from each of the participating institutions has a seat on the board. One representative for the composers and one from the Association of Norwegian Theatres and Orchestras are invited to join the board as external members. A group consisting of the leader and two coordinators runs NMH according to the strategy established by the board. An editorial board chooses works for edition and secures the quality of the work and output.

Chairman of the national board is Head of Department Alexander Refsum Jensenius (Univ. of Oslo). The leader of NMH is the conductor Bjarte Engeset.


The first active project created within the NMH was Johan Svendsens Verker (Johan Svendsens Works). Its goal is to develop a complete critical scholarly edition of the works by Johan Svendsen. The Svendsen project is a pilot project, thus providing the groundwork for methodological, editorial, philological and technical discussions and solutions within the NMH. The project has made several preliminary editions of works by Svendsen. These editions have now been performed by many orchestras and musicians in Norway and abroad. This group is headed by conductor Bjarte Engeset. He is joined by Jørgen Langdalen, Øivind Norheim, PhD-scholar/composer Morten Christophersen (The University of Oslo), conductor Jørn Fossheim, PhD-scholar Audun Jonassen (The University of Bergen), scholar Barbara Cipollone and professor Morten Carlsen (The Norwegian Academy of Music).

The second extensive project formed within the NMH was the Fartein Valen project at the Department of Musicology at UiO. This project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council. The aim is both research on Valen’s style, his importance in Norwegian and European music as well as the compilation of a critical survey of all his sources and works and the editing of some of his scores. Another goal is to initiate performances and recordings of Valen’s music in collaboration with the Norwegian Broadcasting services, the Valen trust and the Valen Centre, opened in 2013. Professor Ståle Wikshåland heads this project, which include four more researchers.

PhD-candidate Lars-Thomas Holm (The Norwegian Academy of Music) is working on a project editing several works by Ludvig Irgens-Jensen.

Arne Nordheim’s nachlass has been given to the Norwegian Academy of Music, which has created a Nordheim Centre. Scholars within the NMH will participate in the work on the material in this collection.

A committee is working on creating a project on Geirr Tveitt in the same vein as the Svendsen and Valen projects. This will have its base at the Grieg Academy, the University of Bergen.

The new Centre for Grieg Research at the University of Bergen participate in some new editions of parts of the Edvard Grieg Gesamtausgabe. The complete edition was finished in 1995, but more sources and new research encourage us to improve the former editions.

Ass.professor Øyvin Dybsand (UiO) has made an extensive critical list of Johan Halvorsen’s oeuvre. He has collaborated with the conductor Jørn Fossheim, who has reedited some of the orchestral works of Halvorsen for the new recordings by the Bergen Philharmonic Society. This work will continue over the next few years.

The University of Tromsø is planning a project of editing music from Northern Norway.

In addition to the projects mentioned above Norwegian Musical Heritage will also formulate new plans including more composers and collections of works and single important works. Norwegian Musical Heritage is receiving proposals coming from local collections and organizations and also from performers and groups. We assist these initiatives by providing expert counsel and an infrastructure.

All these projects will profit from collective national competences and also from our connection with international partner institutions. We have a special partner agreement with the Danish Centre for Music Publication (DCM); we are thus given access to tools developed through their work on the Carl Nielsen Edition. We also work closely together with the other Nordic countries in the recently established Nordic Musical Heritage Network.

Technical Infrastructure

The technological “state of the arts” in research, edition and publishing is pointing towards new questions and the need for new knowledge. An especially important part out technical infrastructure is the metadateditor MerMEId, developed by the Danish Centre for Music Publication. These resources are available to all participants in Norwegian Musical Heritage.

The web pages will be gradually expanded at the address These pages should be searchable and accessible through all the web sites of the collaborating institutions. This will be the central channel for distribution of information and material through the internet. The pages will also have information on how to order scores and anthologies.


NB Noter– the Norwegian National Library’s music publication services –collaborate with NMH in the publishing and promotion of scores and in the production of parts for musicians, ensembles and orchestras, nationally and internationally.

The Handling of Legal Rights

The publishing of scores, recordings and other relevant material will require careful attention to the rights regulated by the copyright laws and other legislation. Costs concerning performance, recordings, playback and production of single copies, as well as downloading and rental, will be handled according to the rules and standards recommended by the Norwegian copyright organizations like TONO and GRAMO and respected by the publishers. Lawyers from the UiO are associated with NMH and are helping in formulating general agreements for processing all types of relevant rights.


The core of the activity is in the period of 2010-2015 sponsored by The Norwegian Culture Council. This involve the cost of leading and coordinating NMH in addition to the costs of the actual editing of music, writing of scores/parts etc. Also the University in Oslo has contributed substantially to this part of NMH.

Another large part of the activities – and costs – is close to ordinary research. The main part of the financing of this is accordingly provided by the research institutions’ own efforts and budgets and by project support from funds for research.



Adm. coordinator:

Otto Christian Pay

Norges musikkhøgskole

tlf: 23 36 70 26



More info

The White Paper from 2008 (in Norwegian):
Musikkarvprosjektet : vern og publisering av den klassiske norske musikkarven / innstilling fra redaksjonsgruppen, nedsatt av MIC Norsk musikkinformasjon, Norsk komponistforening og Nasjonalbiblioteket. 

Link (pdf-format):


Published Aug. 1, 2011 10:51 AM - Last modified Apr. 9, 2017 7:46 PM