This project was initiated when the Norwegian radio channel NRK P2, of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, asked Sigbjørn Nedland to comission a work for the Radio Symphony Orchestra, to be featured as NRK P2’s “Årets verk” – “Composition of the Year” – for 1997. Nedland contacted Indian violin virtuoso and composer Dr. L. Subramaniam, suggesting a compositon for Symphony Orchestra and traditional folk instruments.

Dr. L. Subramaniam reacted enthusiastically to the proposal, and wrote “Astral Symphony”, which was premiered in a live broadcast from Oslo Concert House in October 1997. The festival “Verden i Norden” (later re-named “Oslo World”) chose this concert to be the opening concert of the festival that year.

“Astral Symphony” is a work for Symphony Orchestra and various traditional instruments, each having their solo parts. Six different soloists from four different countries were selected for the premiere performance, but the idea was that these soloists could be exchanged for other instruments in other locations, which has also been done in various later performances of the symphony around the world.

Among all of Subramaniam’s symphonies, Astral Symphony is the most flexible, able to reflect many different cultures and music traditions. At the premiere performance at the Oslo Concert Hall, instruments and soloists came from 5 different countries: Norway, India, Senegal, Pakistan (from the Balochistan part) and Iran.

The concert in Oslo Concert Hall also featured Subramaniam’s Double Concerto for two violins, performed by the orchestra with Dr. L. Subramaniam and Arve Tellefsen.