Introduction

In the NTNU’s manuscript collection in Trondheim, no less than 25 violin concertos have been preserved. Some are spurious, with no other known sources, some are anonymous, and at present, five concertos remain to be identified. The concertos have all been composed sometime between 1710 and 1770, and it is likely that they have been performed in Trondheim throughout the 18th century by the stadsmusikant (town musician) and his staff of professional musicians (‘assistants’). Consequently, these works 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 of 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 numerous orchestral pieces, mainly symphonies and instrumental concertos. Apart from his own compositions, many of them are known works by known composers, whereof some are hand-written copies of contemporary printed editions, like Vivaldi’s opus 3 and opus 8. However, a few pieces are not known from elsewhere, and in some cases, it is uncertain if the names on the cover pages are the names of the composers, or simply the owners of the parts.

The goal of this investigation is not primarily to establish the identity of the composers. Nevertheless, investigating the origin of the works and presenting them to a modern audience will shed light on Trondheim’s and Norway’s cultural history, and rise the awareness of Trondheim as a well-connected European cultural city through the centuries.