Fredrik Högberg (foto: Kristina Fryklöf)
Fredrik Högberg (foto: Kristina Fryklöf)

Fredrik Högberg

Transgressing boundaries, musical as well as hierarchical, is something of a hallmark for composer Fredrik Högberg, who seems to have a very close relationship to his own homo ludens - the playful human being.

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Fredrik Högberg was born in 1971 and grew up in Svedala. He studied at Framnäs Folk High School and later pursued studies in composition with, among others, Jan Sandström at the Piteå College of Music (1990-1997). He worked during this period as Sandström´s assistant, and he also taught composition in Luleå and Piteå. For many years he has resided and been active at the “Court House” in Nyland, by the Ångermanland River, a location that he has transformed into a creative cultural centre. In 1995 he was awarded the music publisher Gehrmans´ grant for the study of composition, the following year he received Luleå Municipality´s culture prize and in 1997 he was given the culture scholarship "Creative Person". Like so many others in his generation of composers, he has a background in rock music. One can still hear him play in the group Nyland´s Iron. And he enjoys listening just as much to the Beatles as to the avant-garde music of Berio, Xenakis or Ligeti. 

Fredrik Högberg is in every sense a creative person with a decidedly playful disposition. He has an unfailing and seemingly endless capacity for finding entirely new angles of approach in his music, and for introducing unexpected elements and even humorous turns. But even if these features cause people to smile and now and then even bring on spontaneous laughter, it is always a question of carefully calculated, artistic effects, often of a visual character. "The visual parameter of creativity has always been vital for me. And at times also humour, which incidentally is conspicuous by its absence in contemporary music." And Högberg does not hesitate to make use of a number of different styles in one and the same piece. Rhythm and pulse are important ingredients in his music.

The playfulness is not seldom reflected in the titles of the works. He calls a concerto for tuba Rocky Island Boat Bay (2006) - an unintelligible title if one doesn´t know that the music was written expressly for the tuba player Öystein Baadsvik, whose name is translated in this way. The playful element recurs in the many ingenious and startling features of his music. Many of Högberg´s concerto-like works were written with some of the most prominent musicians of our time in mind, and formed according to their personalities. In his first trumpet concerto The Poem (2005), he requires that trumpeter Ole Edvard Antonsen read a poem, and perform conjuring tricks and juggling exercises. Högberg has tried to take advantage of the strong stage presence of these musicians, to put them in the limelight and give them the opportunity to do so much more than just stand up and play their notes. This means that he also demands an open-minded attitude on the part of the orchestra. For the well-known musician Christian Lindberg he wrote the trombone concerto The Return of Kit Bones (2001). He has written music with special demands for musicians as different as soprano saxophonist Anders Paulsson, the percussion ensemble Kroumata (Kroum Song 1998, written for the 75th anniversary of the Swedish Performing Rights Society) and the Latin Kings together with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Stockholm.

Högberg´s production encompasses many different genres: pieces for instrumental soloists (often with a prerecorded tape), such as PlastMusikk for clarinetist Martin Fröst and Ice Piano for pianist Niklas Sivelöv; also chamber music, orchestral works, choral works and, for the stage, operas as well as the ballet Standing Waves – which was shown on Swedish TV and during the World Expo 2000 in Hamburg.

Fredrik Högberg is captivated by technological innovations and has at times been fascinated by the possibilities of information technology. So that he could have the opportunity to create a completely Internet-based “iOpera”, Cain´s Woman (Kains kvinna), he was awarded the largest grant ever given a Swedish composer – two million Swedish kronor. Once again he leads music – and opera in particular – onto entirely new paths.

Late works include the multimedia solo concertos Dancing with Silent Purpose (2010), for Martin Fröst, Ice Concerto (2012) for Niklas Sivelöv, the Accordion King (2014) for Jörgen Sundeqvist, as well as the violin concerto Absent Illusions (2017) for Isabelle van Keulen, that all include videos in combination with soloist and orchestra.
His latest concerto to date is the humorous Baboon Concerto where the bassoon solist gets to act as well as play. It was premiered by Sebastian Stevensson and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in 2018.


Stig Jacobsson


 Selected works:

  • Konzert für zwei Posaunen
  • PlastMusikk
  • The Poem - Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra
  • Rocky Island Boat Bay - Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra
  • Dancing with Silent Purpose - Concerto for Clarinet, Film and String Orchestra
  • Standing Waves - Ballet