Mr. Bent Grønholdt is one of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR)'s big names in classical music. For over 30 years he has helped to develop classical music on the radio in among other roles the deputy director of P2Music, music production director and now editor for P2 live classical broadcasts.
We have asked Bent Grønholdt which three Dacapo recordings he is most fond of.
Carl Nielsen: String Quartets Vol. 1 & 2
SACD 6.220521; 6.220522
"Each generation of Danish musicians should come with a present-day take on Carl Nielsen, and one of the most convincing performances by the younger artists of today is the Danish String Quartet's recording of the string quartets, which in their version sparkles so much with life and not least under¬standing of the spirit of Nielsen; four music-makers who have grown out of the fiddling tradition of which Carl Nielsen too was a part"
Bo Holten: The Visit of the Royal Physician
"Contemporary opera can have a hard time attracting full houses. But Bo Holten did it with The Visit of the Royal Surgeon, an opera full of music and dramatic feeling that is innovative, but which also clearly adheres to the tradition out of which it has grown. The music is highly singable and challenges the singers on their own home ground. Fortunately, the opera was documented on DVD in a happy collaboration of the artists of the Royal Theatre, DR, Dacapo, WH and Cubus."
Buxtehude: Organ Works Vol. 1-6
CD 8.226002, -08, -23; SACD 6.220514, -20, 30
"Six CDs with organ music by Buxtehude... Perhaps a bit too much of a good thing if you listen from start to finish, but the CDs offer convincing documentation of music with Danish roots that forms a cornerstone of European music. The music, played dazzlingly by Bine Bryndorf, is given an extra dimension by being recorded on Buxtehude's own organs.
AN AMERIKANER IN DANMARK by Karl Aage Rasmussen
Andy Pape (b. 1955)
was born in the movie capital Hollywood, but at the age of fifteen moved with
his family to Denmark, and has been active there ever since. In the mid-70s he
studied musicology for a couple of years at the University of Copenhagen, but
decided on an artistic career and in 1987 took his diploma in composition at
the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen.
Andy Pape is
something of an outsider in Danish music, but that is only superficially due to
his American childhood or the Russian roots in his family background. One could
of course regard his use of elements from several of the idioms of popular
music or of aspects of American minimalism as a special American DNA, but it is
clear that he draws on material from European traditions and thinking with the
same inevitability. In fact it rather seems that the absence of commitment to
any specific cultural norm is the nutrient for his creativity. And to this we
can add yet another personal characteristic, an element of theatre, of
role-playing, of serious play, one could say, whether he is writing drama or
so-called ‘absolute' music. There can hardly be said to be a throng of modern
concert-hall composers whose music radiates the elementary joy of creation, but
Andy Pape is one of them. Here we find no comprehensive foundation of musical
theory or ideological-philosophical deliberations on modernity and ‘contemporaneity',
but we do find enduring virtues like vitality, charisma, an appetite for life
and - in the best sense of the word - manoeuvrability through the classical
Andy Pape's wingspan is wide in terms of
expression and genre in orchestral and chamber music, in choral music, solo
works, music drama and music for films. As a music dramatist he is among the
most productive and versatile in the country, and so far several of his seven
theatrical works associated with the opera genre have aroused considerable
attention. This is particularly true of the street opera Houdini the Great, about the legendary magician and
escapologist who was active at the beginning of the last century, written in
1988 in collaboration with the all-round performer Erik Clausen and later
played innumerable times in various parts of the world. And with its
light-footed leaps into mythological material, the children's or family opera Sigurd the Dragonslayer (2005) maintains a credibility
with its primarily young target group that is free of both didacticism and any
faux-juvenile tone. And these are both very much mobile chamber operas; only a
few singers, a small instrumental ensemble and a minimum of theatrical
technology are in play. Andy Pape is well aware that even with greatly limited
resources one can compose relevant emotions on the outsize scale. But he has
also successfully courted the classic opera form with orchestra in the
expressive drama Leonora Christine - Queen
of the Blue Tower (1998) with a libretto by Nina Malinovski.
The early collaboration with the
left-wing street performer, film director and actor Erik Clausen is telling,
for much of Pape's attitude to the meaning of artistic expression recalls the
activities of this popular film-maker. An impactful communicative ability, a
sense of solidarity and unsnobbish humour are things they share. In 1994 Pape
adapted music by Carl Nielsen for Clausen's film My Childhood Symphony, based on
Nielsen's charming memoirs, and this comes as close to Danish music's sense of
self as can be imagined.
Bernstein wrote a famous fictive interview with George Gershwin and gave it the
ironic heading: "Why Don't You Run Upstairs and Write a Nice Gershwin Tune?"
The point is obvious: anyone who thinks it's an easy matter to imitate
Gershwin's immortal catchy melodies really has to think again. When Pape sends
a professional nod to the man who was perhaps the greatest musical name in his
country of birth and his An American in Paris, he does so
with a similar self-ironic gesture. For the pawky title of Pape's witty,
brilliantly orchestrated tribute to Gershwin, An
Amerikaner in Danmark (2003) is something he would prefer to hear pronounced "in Danish
with a thick American accent". He describes the piece as a kind of rhapsody
with unmistakable quotations not only from Gershwin's standards, but also from
popular Danish songs and from his own music - as well as that of several Danish
The concerto for tuba and orchestra from 2006 grew out of the
collaboration with the winds of the Odense Symphony Orchestra in An Amerikaner in Danmark, and here too Pape has chosen an unusual title, Suburban Nightmares. But if this turns one's thoughts in the direction of thrillers or TV
crime series, one is wholly on the wrong track. The words of the title have a
quite special, almost private and metaphorical meaning for Pape. He describes
the concept "suburb" as a symbol of "man's eternal attempt to surround himself
with security" - the suburb as a place of shelter from both the noise and
violence of the city and the brooding loneliness of the countryside. And the
word "nightmare" refers on the other hand to the fear everyone knows as a
condition of life: that security can be lost. These emotional climates are contrasted
starkly in the two large middle movements, while two short outer movements form
a sober prelude and an epilogue.
bassoon concerto Traces of Time Lost (1998) yet
another fundamental condition of life is in focus: omnipresent time; the time
which, since ‘the Big Bang', just passes or runs on, is killed or wasted, is
empty or full, measurable or intangible, goal-oriented or a circle in motion.
Composing music is in a way always a duel with time, an effort to tame it and
dam it up, to fix it, to repeat it in notes, indeed actually to exorcise this
painful condition of life - that time is constantly running out, and that it
takes us with it.
himself describes the distinctive experience of time for which he has tried to
find musical expression as follows:
"In the first movement the bassoon is the point of departure for all
time, in the understanding that the orchestra functions as a huge ‘echo
valley'. But no ordinary echo valley. The echo becomes not only fainter, but
slower and higher; sometimes the echo transposes the pitch. In the second
movement the bassoon plays the endless melody of time in an ever ascending
spiral that starts in the lowest register and ends in the highest one - a
melody that is always like itself yet never quite the same; a melody that has
always been there and always will be there. In the third movement the bassoon
moves out of the eye of the hurricane of time and out into the actual flow of
time; to where things ‘happen' in relentless and strangely unpredictable ways,
just as we who live in time every day know it."
Given the way Andy Pape handles those habitually slashed contrasts of
cultural life, ‘highbrow/lowbrow', they are not only rather meaningless labels,
but risk becoming a symptom of an attitude to art that is at one moment afraid
of being sophisticated and pretentious, at the next moment of being vulgar and
banal; afraid of snobbery, afraid of inverted snobbery. In 1928, on a journey
in Europe, George Gershwin visited Alban Berg in Vienna. Berg asked Gershwin to
give some samples of his own music at the piano, but Gershwin hesitated - he
was unsure of himself in the presence of the man behind the overwhelming
operatic drama Wozzeck. Berg looked hard at him and said: "Music is music!"
The composer Karl Aage
Rasmussen is Professor emeritus of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in
Aarhus. He has also held many other posts in Danish cultural life and is the
author of several books on music and musicians.