Founded and led by Norwegian violinist Bjarte Eike in 2005, Barokksolistene is now recognised as one of the world’s most dynamic and exciting groups working in the field of historically informed performance, fusing virtuoso musicianship with flawless ensemble playing. Constantly striving to reach out to new audiences, their passion to engage with folk and experimental music, improvisation, visual arts, dance and story-telling has led them to create unique concert experiences which play to sold-out audiences worldwide.
Nowhere is this more evident than in their signature project “The Alehouse Sessions”. Curated and devised by Bjarte Eike, this project is an ever-changing and evolving look into the music of the English 17th century tavern, with the group diverting away from the traditional concert model, to create an evening that is “innately theatrical, genre bending and suffused with great musicianship” (The Strad).
An album of the project was released on Rubicon Classics in 2017 and immediately made the UK top 10 classical charts. Since then Barokksolistene has toured the project throughout the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Scandinavia, the US and Ireland, and it continues to return season after season, each time with new ideas. In 2018 the album received the Opusklassik Award in Germany.
In 2023, BBC television premiered a film of the Alehouse sessions, directed by award-winning director Dominic Best.
“The Alehouse Sessions” continues to evolve and has engendered several related productions, not least “The Nordic Sessions” and productions for schools. “The Alehouse Sessions” won a Young Audiences Music Award (YAMawards 2022) in the category “Best Large Ensemble.
The latest evolution of this concept is “The Playhouse Sessions”, which follows the story of how musical life in London’s taverns continued after the Restoration, bringing more theatrical music into the mix with music by Purcell and settings of texts by Shakespeare. Barokksolistene’s album “The Playhouse Sessions” (Rubicon Classics, released September 2022) has garnered a wealth of enthusing reviews.
“Purcell’s Playground” is a related programme, in which the focus is on the music of Henry Purcell and especially his fascinatingly varied “ground bass” compositions.
“The Image of Melancholy”, one of the group’s first major recordings, was released on BIS and explores the use of melancholy in music throughout the centuries. In the same month that the album was released it featured as Recording of the Week on Danish Radio, going on to win the “International Recording of the Year” at the Danish P2 Prisen Award.
On stage, Barokksolistene’s collaborations have found them working with artists as diverse as choreographer Liam Scarlett on his ballet Vespertine and Norwegian jazz musician Jon Balke, whose Siwan project explores the links between North African Arabic, Andalusian and baroque music. Further concerts have included performances of the Malcom Bruno reconstruction of Bach’s St Mark Passion and a series of major opera productions, including a staged Messiah with Netia Jones for Bergen National Opera at the Bergen International Festival and Handel’s Alcina for Den Norske Opera in Oslo. In 2019 they returned there for a new production of Dido and Aeneas. Directed from the violin by Bjarte Eike, the group appeared on stage as both actors and musicians.
Also in 2019 Barokksolistene co-produced Shakespeare’s A Midsummernight’s Dream at Haugesund Teater, with the Alehouse Boys acting as the court orchestra and the elf pack. The production got rave reviews from the Norwegian media – NRK’s (Norwegian National Broadcasting) reviewer wrote: “Give Bjarte Eike the opportunity, and he’ll make life a song”.
Bjarte Eike and Barokksolistene are based in Norway and were established in 2005. They are very grateful to receive support from the government via Kulturrådet and the community of Norway as proud ambassadors of Norwegian culture.