It is almost exclusively as an instrumental composer that Bent Sørensen has made his name since the mid-eighties as one of the most listenable Danish composers of his generation, at the international as well as the national level; in the early years especially in a long succession of chamber music works, including the four string quartets that now feature centrally in the oeuvre, but in the course of the 1990s also with a growing number of works for large orchestra: the cantata The Echoing Garden (1990-92), his only symphony so far (1995-96), and the three solo concertos – the violin concerto Sterbende Gärten (1992-93, awarded the Music Prize of the Nordic Council), the trombone concerto Birds and Bells (1995) and the piano concerto La Notte (1996-98).
By contrast Bent Sørensen has written very few vocal works – apart from The Echoing Garden in fact only the choral work In Paradisum (1994-95, 2002) and a number of smaller songs as well as his principal work to date, the opera Under the Sky, which was premiered at the Royal Danish Theatre in 2003. But that is not to say that his music is not dramatic and evocative. On the contrary, it is very much so. That is, at once quiet and intensely present, half in shadow and full of purling motion like memories from a remote, ruined past that urges itself upon us here and now. It is music that often seems to make memory itself its theme, to evoke memories or unconscious recollections – with all the shadow plays, displacements and obscurities of memory; music where the story is not only present as something outside us, something that can be observed or treated like an object, but is within ourselves, constantly lives with us and is also interpreted in terms of the present.
Besides being a composer, Bent Sørensen is also professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. In 1999 Bent Sørensen was awarded the Wilhelm Hansen Composer Prize.