In the NTNU’s manuscript collection in Trondheim, no less than 25 violin concertos have been preserved. Nine of them are anonymous, and five remain to be identified. They have all been composed sometime between 1710 and 1770, and of the five unkown pieces, only one is known from other collections. These manuscripts appear to have been performed in Trondheim from the late 1730s, by the stadsmusikant (town musician) and his staff of professional musicians (‘assistants’), and these concertos belong to the oldest classical music to have been performed in a professional context in Norway.
In the 18th century, Trondheim was a prosperous city. A handful of wealthy families from Schleswig-Holstein, a duchy under the kingdom of Denmark-Norway, settled in Trondheim and built their fortunes by exporting fish, lumber and copper from the mines of Røros and elsewhere in Trøndelag. Trondheim was closely connected to the larger cities of Northern Europe, and its wealthy class of citizens demanded the latest in European art, food and other luxuries.
From 1737, the stadsmusikant in Trondheim was Johan Daniel Berlin. He was born in Memel in East Prussia, and after seven years as an assistant of Copenhagen’s stadsmusikant, he was appointed to the royally privileged position as stadsmusikant in Trondheim. He soon took the position as organist in the Nidaros cathedral and Vår Frue kirke as well, making him the most influential person on the music scene in Trondheim and the northern districts.
Berlin’s surviving manuscripts contain several orchestral pieces, mainly symphonies and instrumental concertos. Many of them are known works by known composers, some are even hand-written copies of contemporary printed editions, like Vivaldi’s opus 3 and opus 8. However, many of the pieces are not known from elsewhere, and in some cases, it is uncertain if the name on the folder is the name of the composer or simply the owner of the parts.
The goal of this investigation is not primarily to conclude on who may have composed these unique concertos. Nevertheless, to present them to a modern audience, and to give them the place they deserve as a testimony of Trondheim’s and Norway’s cultural history, it is important to determine an approximate place and time of their origin.