He’s considered one of the best cellists in the world, but famed Norwegian musician Truls Mørk was forced out of action during the past two years by a mysterious ailment that left him unable to play. On Wednesday night, he made a triumphant return on home turf, at Oslo’s Konserthuset (Concert House).
Those of us lucky enough to get tickets were treated not only to Mørk back on stage playing Dvorak’s demanding Cello Concerto with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, but also to him being named the winner of the annual Sibelius Prize. It’s awarded to those who have made a major contribution to promote contact between Finnish and Norwegian musical life. Previous winners include conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste, soprano Randi Stene and pianists Leif Ove Andsnes and Håvard Gimse.
Now it was Mørk’s turn to receive the award and a check for NOK 100,000, after violinist Stephan Barratt-Due of the Sibelius foundation called his comeback “historic.”
Mørk was also rewarded with lengthy applause as soon as he entered the stage after the intermission, but before even starting to play, and with sustained standing ovations after finishing Dvorak’s lengthy but romantic concerto from 1895, conducted by Eivind Gullberg Jensen.
It all made for a warm welcome for the 49-year-old Mørk, who has suffered through many dark days since first falling ill while on a concert tour in Japan in April 2009. Doctors first thought he had contracted the borrelia virus through a flea bite. Mørk lost all energy, couldn’t tolerate light or read, or get his fingers to work on the cello. Last year he was finally diagnosed with a rare form of encephalitis which doctors could treat, and after months of physiotherapy and rehabilitation to overcome paralysis in his shoulder, he could finally play again.
He’d had to cancel so many concerts, including hoped-for comebacks last fall in London and Paris. He finally could make a brief appearance in November and has played four concerts abroad in the past two months, including one in Helsinki.
His appearance Wednesday night was his first full concert back home in Norway in two years, and another was planned for Thursday night. Mørk, Norway’s only Grammy Award winner, is also a professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music (Norges Musikkhøgskolen) in Oslo, and has continued his work there as well.