Kolbjørn Holthe, Principal Second Violin

“The twelve years I traveled with the COE were a life-changing experience for me, and it is something I will carry with me, professionally and personally, for the rest of my life.

The first time I heard the orchestra play on the radio I was overwhelmed by the musicality, the transparency, and the skills of the musicians. I remember thinking that becoming a member of that ensemble in the future would be a dream come true. I was maybe 12-13 years old back then.

In the end that dream did come true! My first tour included all the Beethoven symphonies in Carnegie Hall with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and for me those concerts have ever since been the benchmark for how amazing orchestral concerts can be. I was only 23 then, and in the years that followed the COE was of such importance for me, personally and musically, that it is beyond words. Meeting and getting to know wonderful colleagues from so many different countries was of immense value. We all brought different perspectives into the COE family, and this enriched our personal and musical lives greatly.

Because of other commitments back home in Norway I sadly had to leave the orchestra, something I never thought would happen. Still, I have never felt so much at home and appreciated anywhere else. The COE represents for me everything an orchestra should be, and I am extremely happy to see that it is alive, now in its fifth decade!”


Kolbjørn Holthe (born 1973) is one of the leading Norwegian violinists of his generation and a much sought-after instrumentalist and teacher. He was appointed Associate Professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2001, and as of January 2014 he has been appointed concertmaster of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

Holthe was himself a student at the Norwegian Academy of Music between 1991 and 1997, with the exception of two years in the USA at the Louisiana State University where he studied with Camilla Wicks. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards and his critically acclaimed recital in 1999 received the Musikkens Venners Landsforbund (National Association of Musical Societies) Award for that year’s best debut performance.

Holthe was concertmaster of the Norwegian National Opera Orchestra from 1997 to 2004 and section leader of the second violins in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, of which he was a member from 1997 to 2009, working with conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Paavo Berglund, and Bernard Haitink. In one recording project he also played as concertmaster for the COE in music by JS Bach with soloists François Leleux, oboe, and Lisa Batiashvili, violin.

He has also appeared as soloist with every professional Norwegian symphony orchestra, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, the Norwegian Armed Forces’ staff band, and the Norwegian Wind Ensemble, and has performed as a soloist with Symphony Nova Scotia and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in Canada. In 2009 he played the Mozart violin concerto no. 5 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in England.

As guest concertmaster Kolbjørn Holthe has been engaged by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic, the Royal Court Orchestra of the Royal Swedish Opera, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. From 2010 to 2012 he was engaged as concertmaster of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, and during 2013 he was a member of the first violin section of the Oslo Philharmonic.

In 2006 Holthe was appointed Artistic Director of the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra, a position he held until 2012. This involved some appearances as conductor besides directing projects from the position of concertmaster. Anxious to expand his musical and artistic experiences Holthe is now in the process of establishing a conducting career, and in 2023, for the first time, he was engaged in this role by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.

From the concertmaster stand Holthe led in 2023 two projects with the Württembergisches Kammeorchester Heilbronn, Germany. He has also been instrumental in building up the concert series «KORK uten», where the Norwegian Radio Orchestra presents unconducted concerts.

Kolbjørn Holthe has an extensive catalogue of recordings as a chamber musician, leader and orchestral musician. These include:

  • record label SIMAX, 2012: “Perspectives (69°42′, North | 19°00′ East)”, in which he assumed the role of artistic director, conductor, leading concertmaster and quartet leader with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra.
  • record label 2L, 2006: “The Art of Transcendence”, violin sonatas by Richard Strauss and George Enescu (no.3). 2L, 2008: “Mirror Canon”, performing Anton Webern’s Vier Stücke für Geige und Klavier. Both recordings are in collaboration with pianist Tor Espen Aspaas.

Holthe plays a violin by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini from 1752, which is lent to him by Dextra Musica.

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