the threat of war

Before dress rehearsal with Gävle Symphony Orchestra and Mats Rondin going up on the podium and Matthew Scrivener tuning up the orchestra .


instruments symphony orchestra

2 fl* 2ob 2cl* 2fg* – 4cor 2tr 2trb 1btrb – 1timp 0 – 0 – str.


year of production 1999/2000 rev.2001


duration 11‘    


first performance 

May 19 2000
Rosenbergsalen, Malmö
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra
Bjarte Engeset





work comments

The title refers to crisis situations, for example in Kosovo during the years of 1998-1999. 

The first introductory measures express the threat of war in that region. 

The music is inspired by the shocking war footages from news broadcasts on television and in daily newspapers. 

You can imagine yourself experiencing the warfare in your own country, the terror and being forced to escape. 

In the background underlies also folk-musical structures i.e african clave-rhythms (4:3 polyrhythm) 

as a connection with the crisis in the Kongo-Kinshasa region in which went on at the same time as in Kosovo.

This work was composed to the annual project called ”The Composers of Tomorrow 2000”  

between the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra and the Academy of Music in Malmö. 

It was judged as ”best orchestral work” by the musicians of the orchestra and was performed later 

on the Young Soloists Concert in the Concert Hall in Helsingborg. 

Other important performances could be mentioned like the Young Nordic Music Festival (UNM) in Reykjavik, Iceland 

and Stockholm New Music 2003.


The Threat of War was nominated by the Swedish Music Publishers Association (SMFF) Award 

in the category ”The most significant contemporary music work of the year” in 2005.


other performances made



March 25 2001

Konserthuset, Helsingborg

Unga Solister, Solofonipriset (The Solofoni Prize)

Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra

Cecilia Rydinger Alin



March 22 2002

Artisten, Gothenburg

Symphony Orchestra of the Gothenburg School of Music

Cecilia Rydinger Alin


April 16 2002

Konserthus, Aalborg, Denmark DANISH PREMIERE

Aalborg Symphony Orchestra

Per-Otto Johansson


June 23 2002

Stadshallen, Lund

Nordic Youth Orchestra (Nordiska Ungdomsorkestern)

Mika Eichenholz


September 5 2002

Háskólábíó, Reykjavik, Iceland ICELANDIC PREMIERE

Ung Nordisk Musik (UNM) Festival

Iceland Symphony Orchestra

Hermann Bäumer

Radio broadcast on Swedish Radio P2 April 2nd 2003



February 15 2003

Södra Latins Gymnasium, Stockholm

Södra Latin Symphony Orchestra

Jan Risberg


February 16 2003

Immanuelskyrkan, Stockholm

Stockholm New Music 2003

Södra Latin Symphony Orchestra

Jan Risberg



November 27 2004

De Geer Concert Hall, Norrköping

Norrköping Symphony Orchestra

Stefan Solyom



April 24 2005

Görreshaus, Koblenz, GERMAN PREMIERE

Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie,

Stefan Solyom

Radio broadcast on SWR Rheinland Pfalz June 23 2005, SWR2


June 10 2005

Norrlandsoperan, Umeå

Symphony Orchestra of the Norrland Opera

Daniel Raiskin

Radio broadcast on SRP2 February 6 2006



August 30 and 31 2006

Konserthuset, Stockholm

The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

Michael Christie



April 15 2007

Gewandhaus, Leipzig

MDR-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig

Stefan Solyom

Radio broadcast on MDR FIGARO April 22 2007


November 18 2007

Lund, Stadshallen

Lunds Stadsorkester

Mats Rondin



May 24 2008

Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm

Södra Latin Symphony Orchestra

Jan Risberg



February 12 2009

Gevaliasalen, Gävle

Gävle Symphony Orchestra

Mats Rondin



October 25

Gevaliasalen, Gävle

Gävle Symphony Orchestra

Alexander Hanson

Radio broadcast on SR P2 February 21 2013



June 23 2013

Stadshallen, Lund

Nordiska Ungdomsorkestern

Mika Eichenholz




Konserthuset, Stockholm

Gävle Symphony Orchestra

Emil Eliasson



May 22-26 2023

Studio recording for Ondine

Release due to next year 2024

Gävle Symphony Orchestra

Emil Eliasson

reviews on the threat of war

Ung Nordisk Musik 2002, Reykjavík, Iceland.


Iceland Symphony Orchestra/Hermann Bäumer

[…] ”The orchestra did seem to like this powerful piece very much and the audience responded to that.” […]

Rikhardhur O. Pálssón, Morgunbladid, September 10th 2002


Artisten, Gothenburg

Symphony Orchestra of the Gothenburg School of Music/

Cecilia Rydinger Alin

[…] ”personal and engaging reflection, almost as an first-hand observation”. […]

Andreas Krizsan, Tritonus, 1/02, March 25th 2002




De Geer Hall, Norrköping

Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Stefan Solyom

[…] ”The Threat of War is swiftly fluctuating, dynamic music – a work with an innovative tone language, but hardly provocative. The music has an organic, self-developing character that makes it palpable and gripping. The title of the work notwithstanding, it is not only about a destructive threat of war that is manifested in eruptive explosions and black melancholy. Perhaps these emotional fields of tension would not be so expressive if scope were not given to rather bright, tranquil sections with mild clusters and tendencies toward melodic structure. The composer creates variation in his means of expression by making use of glissandi, above all in the strings and the kettledrum with a pedal. The clattering col legno effects of the strings and the brass section’s sighing and toneless exhaling sounds signal extraordinary levels of feeling. Stefan Solyom and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra deserve our highest appreciation for ensemble playing packed with excitement and indelible rhythmic clarity.”

Reidar Sunnerstam, Norrköpings Tidningar, November 29th 2004




Symphony Orchestra at the Norrland Opera/Daniel Raiskin

Norrland Opera/Umeå


[…] ”The surprise of the evening was no doubt the young Swedish composer Benjamin Staern. Not since the mature Karl – Birger Blomdahl has a Swedish composer had such control over the craft of musical composition and such a thorough knowledge of the instruments.” […]

Carl Rehnberg, Västerbottens Folkblad, June 12th 2005




[…] ”A real contrast…the symphony orchestra performed with deafening precision and sharp-painted The Threat of War by Benjamin Staern (born 1978). Here was also eruptive cannonades, the encouraging rhythms and intensive play, much thanks to an excellent effort by the conductor Daniel Raiskin and the Symphony Orchestra at the Norrland Opera. ”[…]

Bengt Hultman, Västerbottenkuriren, June 11th 2005



Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie/Stefan Solyom

Görreshaus/Koblenz, Germany


[…] ”This is music that with dramatic stylistic means lets the threats of war get in under your skin. Drastic contrasts come one after the other, violent nose dives, shimmering upward passages, blaring trumpet signals, whining and string glissandi that produce the sound of falling bombs. A melodic, frail, budding plant of hope is buried under forceful wind instrument and percussion waves that break loose. An apocalyptic, but very skillfully composed, chaos that was given a disciplined performance with a high degree of concentration by the Rheinische Philharmonie under Solyom’s very self-assured and transparent leadership. ” […]

Lieselotte Sauer-Kaulbach, Rhein-Zeitung April 26th 2005



MDR Sinfonieorchester/Stefan Solyom

Gewandhaus/Leipzig, Germany


[…] ”Laut bis chaotisch kommt Staerns Komposition daher, die Instrumentengruppen kämpfen gegeneinander wie Kriegsgegner…doch unterliegen die Klangschicten einer dramaturgischen Ordnung, die durchdacht und reif herüberkommt. Kriegsberichterstattung in Fernsehen und Tageszeitungen inspirierte den Komponisten, ein Musikstück über die Schreckes des Krieges zu schreiben. Und auch ohne dies zu wissen, kann man in den flimmernden Streicherglissandi fallende Bomben hören und sich von den explosionsartige Klängen des Schlagwerks erschrecken lassen.” […]

Maren Winterfeld, Leipziger Volkszeitung April 17th 2007





The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Michael Christie


[…] “The best item on the programme was “The threat of war” by Benjamin Staern. 


The title points away towards great seriousness, but what was performed was a rhythmical as well as structural well-formed orchestral texture in a post-Stravinsky atmosphere with some modern instrumentation effects as a time marker.” […]

Thomas Anderberg, Dagens Nyheter, September 2nd 2006.


[…] “[Staern] has a secure hand for orchestra.” […]

Lars Hedblad, Svenska Dagbladet, September 2nd 2006.



Lunds stadsorkester/Mats Rondin




[…] ”an internationally acclaimed work with outspoken connections to war threats that are cabled out in our living rooms…The orchestra seems very well prepared for Staerns work. The fragments are kept together. Staerns development from massive orchestral textures to more transparency is very welcomed. My associations comes across to the Pole Witold Lutoslawski, who never considered that you should not write it difficult without any kind of necessity.” […]


Matti Edén, Sydsvenska Dagbladet, November 20th 2007



Gävle Symfoniorkester/Mats Rondin



[…] ”It was brutal, it was painful and it was strong – in other words a fantastic war depiction.” […]


Bodil Froos, Arbetarbladet, February 14 2009.



[…] ” Then our attention are turned towards the cruelties of war and what fear people makes. Benjamin Staerns Threat of War is a reaction to the wars in Kosovo and Kongo-Kinshasa in the end of the nighties with combat thunder, piercing noise, fanfares. Hurling cascades, voices in escape, threatening grounds. The war’s chemical fogs over tainted earth, missile sound. A depicition of chaos, with clear form: a bit paradoxical.” […]


Camilla Dal, Gefle Dagblad, February 14 2009



Gävle Symfoniorkester/Alexander Hanson



[…] ”The dissonance of the Balkan War and tensions are taking shape in the orchestral piece The threat of war. The blaring syncopations and sharp strings tingle in stark contrast to the beautiful and sonorous as overall set the theme of the program.” […]

Emelie Lundin, Arbetarbladet, October 26 2012



[…] ” It is complex, messy, brass-filled music, Stravinsky often-magnificent muscular – in addition to Allan Pettersson-like fragility. Towards the end violins, which threatens to drown the war drunken fortissimo:a prayer for mercy. Overall: a modernity that breathe clearly rooted in contemporary European music – but Benjamin Staern also has its very own voice. What a future promise!” […]

Björn Gustafsson, Gefle Dagblad, October 30 2012.



Det måste ha varit en sensation, den där majdagen 2000 på Malmös musikhögskola. Hur lät morgondagens tonsättare vid det nya millenniet? Helsingborgs Symfoniorkester presenterade ett verk med den ominösa titeln ”The threat of war”, signerat en tjugoårig Malmöstudent vid namn Benjamin Staern…

Men ändå. Vilket drivet handlag med orkesterns resurser, vilken klangfantasi och idérikedom! …berör med sin uppriktiga uttrycksvilja att just uppröra med insikten om kriget. Den gången på Balkan.” […]


”It must have been a sensation, that May day 2000 at Malmö Academy of Music. How did tomorrow’s composers sound at the new millennium? Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra presented a work with the ominous title ”The threat of war”, signed by a twenty-year-old Malmö student named Benjamin Staern …


But still, what a touch with the orchestra’s resources, what a sound imagination and a wealth of ideas! … Touches with his sincere desire to express precisely to upset with the realization of the war. That time in the Balkans. ”

Camilla Lundberg, DN, April 9th 2022.


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