A meeting with God

A meeting with God: Piano professor and composer Misha Alperin, and conductor of the Oslo Chamber Choir, Håkon Daniel Nystedt, have collaborated closely on Alperin’s new piece, Prayers and meditations, which will be performed at Ris Church this weekend

 “A requiem for my ego”

Prayers and meditations: When piano professor Misha Alperin woke up on April 23rd last year, he had lost the ability to speak. A cancerous growth in his head sent him on a journey from hell to paradise – and gave him an encounter with God.

The story of his illness is the background for the piece Prayers and meditations which he will be performing with the Oslo Chamber Choir this weekend.

“At four o’clock on the night of September 8th, in room 102 at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, I had an encounter with God – through an overflowing light. It was not frightening, I experienced a sense of complete tranquility, and I am still living in this state today,” says Misha Alperin.

Recovered. After nine months of illness – and a very tough chemotherapy regimen, he has now returned to his work as a piano professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music. The doctors declared him to be in remission on January 1st, and describe it as a miracle.

The Ukrainian with Jewish background came to Oslo and the Norwegian Academy of Music in 1993. At that time, he already had an international reputation as a jazz musician through his work with Moscow Art Trio and recordings on the prestigious record label, ECM.

He believes people need a god in order to see how life fits together.

“Religious worship in itself is a source of conflict. But we need a god in order to understand the work of creation. We don’t need jazz, rock, or classical music in the same way – but we must have music,” Alperin thinks.

Divine. “Throughout my entire life I have had a feeling that someone has been watching over me. I don’t believe that our lives are based on coincidences. My experience of illness and of the divine have convinced me that God has a plan for us. It is a beautiful plan, with a great deal of freedom within a clear framework,” he thinks.

“When I improvise, the challenge is to make use of the freedom in order to express myself,” the pianist says.

Misha Alperin believes in unconditional love, and wants to point towards it through his music.

“Both light and dark energy exist. As a young man I was interested in heavy metal music, to seek out the dark side,” he says.

Requiem. Prayers and meditations has become a part of the process he describes as a requiem for his own ego.

“Working on this piece gave me a clear picture of my mission in life – to be able to be an instrument for God. Before, I thought that I was ‘just’ a musician,” he laughs, and hopes that his music can serve as proof that he has discarded his own ego.

Conductor Håkon Daniel Nystedt is looking forward to the premiere with the Oslo Chamber Choir, the composer on piano, Russian and Bulgarian folk singers, and percussion.

“Misha has been a musical mentor for me for many years. He has an exciting, mysterious, and incredibly diverse voice as a composer. I became involved early on with the piece, and it opened doors into new musical spaces. He has a background in classical music and jazz, and he also draws on the folk music tradition,” says Nystedt.

Crossover. Nystedt describes Prayers and meditations as a piece that crosses musical borders, without making aesthetic compromises.

“With this piece, I feel that we are heading towards a musical whole that I like. The choir is also challenged to improvise. They are open to that, especially when they experience that they are helping to create something new – which works,” says the conductor.

Premiere. Prayers and meditations is a new piece by Misha Alperin, written for the Oslo Chamber Choir. The composer himself improvises on piano, and Russian and Bulgarian folk singers participate together with a percussionist. The piece premieres in Ris Church in Oslo today and tomorrow.

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