Legacy Conversations: Marcus Paus

The acclaimed Norwegian composer talks about his artistic journey, his approach to composition and why John Williams’s music has been a continuous source of inspiration

Hosted by Maurizio Caschetto

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Norwegian composer Marcus Paus (b.1979) is one of the most performed and acclaimed contemporary classical musicians of his generation, and one of the most lauded Scandinavian composers working today. The rich and diverse catalog includes chamber music, works for solo musicians, choral music, orchestral works, opera and also works for the theater and film. His music has been performed internationally by acclaimed performers in many prestige venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York City. In 2010, he was also appointed Artistic Director of the Oslo Opera Festival.

Paus is one of the strongest representatives in the contemporary classical music world of a reorientation toward tradition, melody and tonality. His works are often distinguished by a flowing melodic vein, full of lyricism and characterized by a complex harmonic language. Some of his most ambitious works such as the Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (2015), the Sonata for Cello and Piano (2009), the song-cycle for mezzosoprano and orchestra inspired by Dorothy Parker Hate Songs (2014), the choral work based on Anne Frank’s diary The Beauty That Still Remains (2015) have been lauded by music critics and achieved a large success with audiences as well. Paus also explored more modernist techniques such as serialism and aleatoricism, showing his deft command of different styles and languages.

Some of his chamber and orchestral works (including the Flute Concertino “A Portrait of Zhou”, the oboe sonata Marble Songs and “Love’s Last Rites” for solo violin and strings) were collected on a fantastic album called Odes & Elegies, released by Sheva Contemporary label in 2017.

Paus studied at the Norwegian Academy of Music from 1998 to 2002, and then got his Master’s Degree in composition at the Manhattan School of Music, where he was mentored by American composer Richard Danielpour, for whom Paus worked also as assistant for a brief period. Growing up in a musical family, Marcus was surrounded by music since he was a toddler, but the spark that ignited his love for orchestral music were the classic scores composed by John Williams for films like E.T., Superman, Indiana Jones and the Star Wars saga. Paus acknowledges that the music of Williams has been one of the most profound inspirations of his life, becoming an element that helped him pursuing his goals as a composer. Marcus Paus is certainly one of the most brilliant examples of how John Williams’s music sets talented people on a journey rich with discovery, dedication and sincere, heartfelt inspiration. “What I admire the most in his music is his humanity,” says Paus.

Composer Marcus Paus (Photo by Nytt Portrettbilde)

In this long and engaging conversation with The Legacy of John Williams, Marcus talks about his own artistic journey and his approach to composition while also sharing his accurate observations on the music of John Williams and why the Maestro continues to be an endless source of inspiration for him and many other musicians worldwide.

A heartfelt thank you to Marcus Paus for his time and generosity. Visit his official website www.marcuspaus.com for more information about his music, his career and to listen to several excerpts from his works.


List of musical excerpts featured in the episode:

. Marcus Paus, Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (2015) – I. Overture; Håkon Kartveit, Solo Timpani, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton
. Marcus Paus, “Finale and End Credits” from the soundtrack of the film Mortal (2020)
. John Williams, Prelude and Fugue (1965), performed by the Stan Kenton Neophonic Orchestra
. Marcus Paus, Music for Orchestra (2012) – IV. Lullaby; The Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Ingar Bergby
. Marcus Paus, Flute Concertino “A Portrait of Zhou” (2012) – III. Wudang Dance; Tom Ottar Andreassen, Solo Flute; The Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Ingar Bergby
. Marcus Paus, “First Miracle”, from the soundtrack of the film Mortal (2020)
. Marcus Paus, Sonata for Cello and Piano (2009) – II. Scherzo; Johannes Martens, Cello, Joachim Kwetzinsky, Piano
. Marcus Paus, Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (2015) – III. Finale; Håkon Kartveit, Solo Timpani, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton
. Marcus Paus, “Love’s Last Rites”, for solo violin and strings; Henning Kraggerud with the Arctic Chamber Orchestra
. John Williams, “Give Me Your Names” from Schindler’s List (1993)
. John Williams, “Becoming a Geisha” from Memoirs of a Geisha Suite for Cello and Orchestra (2005); Yo-Yo Ma, Cello, Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Williams
. John Williams, “Farewell Neverland” from Hook (1991)
. John Williams, “The Last Battle” from Star Wars (1977)
. John Williams, “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
. John Williams, “The Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Williams
. Marcus Paus, Music for Orchestra (2012) – VII. Finale; The Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Ingar Bergby
. Marcus Paus, “The Miracle on the Bridge”, from the soundtrack of the film Mortal (2020)
. Marcus Paus, “Finale and End Credits”, from the soundtrack of the film Mortal (2020)
. Marcus Paus, Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (2015) – I. Overture; Håkon Kartveit, Solo Timpani, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton