Finn Savery and his chamber music
Finn Savery became famous as a
composer of musicals, in particular Teenagerlove (1962), but before that he was already a well known name as a
composing and performing jazz musician. Many of his compositions combine jazz
improvisation and written -music, but the through-composed works and in
particular the chamber music represented on this CD are the most concentrated
expression of his artistic personality, flexibility and humour as well as his
artistic ingenuity and lyrical sensitivity.
After training in piano and studying
composition with Niels Viggo Bentzon at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in
Copenhagen in 1953-60, Savery attended courses in Darmstadt, New York and
Boston. He was one of the first of his generation to work with twelve-tone
composition and serial music; the work Sections
I-II from 1966 is inspired by and written for
flute, viola, guitar, marimba, vibraphone - the same ensemble as Pierre Boulez'
famous Le marteau sans maître.
Among other roles, Savery has been a
member of the board of the Danish Composers' Society and the Music Committee of
the Danish Arts Foundation, and has received the lifelong artist's grant of the
Of the works on this record the guitar
quartet Synergie is the most outward-looking. The work Variations unites contrapuntal elegance with a vital love of music-making. The
String Quartet and the Trio range
widest in their expressive resources, and include profound and complex
sections. As an aid to those who wish to immerse themselves in these two works,
the descriptions indicate times for some of the turning-points in the course of
String Quartet no. 2
Both the preceding and the next of
Savery's three string quartets are more unified and also only half as long. The
former, from 1956, shows Savery's preoccupation at that time with twelve-tone
music, while no. 3 from 1990 is related to his jazz compositions.
first movement begins with long, staggered notes that constantly form
harmonically tense intervals (major sevenths). From a dark, restrained
beginning the expression opens up with a bright, dreaming theme in a lighter
tempo, played twice. After a brief, reflective interpolation (1'36) the theme
returns; this is repeated (2'48) with the interpolation at a higher pitch, and
with the theme at a lower pitch than before, now continued in lingering
repetitions of the minor thirds of the beginning of the theme at three
different pitches at once. Finally, a simple pentatonic melody is played, with
a ‘Far Eastern' sound, recalling the theme of the preceding development.
movement falls into three parts. The outer sections consist of pentatonic
figures unfolded in a gently rocking -sextuple time. Midway through the first
section (1'17) the basic scale changes and the figures become more pronounced.
At 2'33 the middle section begins in an energetic 4/4 time; it is itself in
triple form with a middle section from 4'18 at a calmer tempo and is further
subdivided into episodes separated by brief pauses. The episodes take the form
of a kind of variations with no stated theme and alternate harmonically between
major scales and chromaticism, rhythmically between more and less complex
relationships among the four parts that intertwine with angular movements as if
controlled by a complicated abstract process, in strong contrast with the
organic effect of the outer sections. The last section from 5'18 is longer than
the first, and the figures are more varied; here too there is change in scale
and towards the end even alternation between the scales.
The cello introduces the third movement
with a monophonic exposition of the dreaming melody of the first movement. The
viola transforms it into a chromatic theme of four rhythmically identical lines
that are reversed and inverted. This theme is varied melodically and
rhythmically so that it is mostly recognizable from the angular profile and the
four-square metre: first by the second violin accompanied by the viola, then by
the first violin accompanied by the previous two and from 3'44 in a free
continuation supported by the cello, which resumes the theme in another two
variations disturbed by its colleagues' ever more enthusiastic chatter. After a
last intense burst from 5'36 they at last fall calm with the lingering thirds
from the end of the first movement, now continuing in the theme itself. The
movement ends with the pentatonic melody whose contour had formed the
background for the themes of the work.
The quartet was commissioned for the
Kontra Quartet by the Frederiksborg County Council and the Danish Arts
Foundation, composed in 1983 and was given its first performance in Hørsholm Church
the same year.
Trio for clarinet, cello and piano
The work is in three almost equally
long sections with no pauses between them, but clearly separated and with
strong contrasts between them.
The introductory chords present the basic
harmonic ‘characters' of the first section: two chromatic chords end in a third
chord that combines two triads within a minor scale. On the basis of this scale
the clarinet and cello embark on a duet of calm, staggered, stepwise ascending
melody lines, to be executed ‘with
warmth'. However, they are interrupted by ever more
intense figures and chromatic chords in the piano, which after a short, shared espressivo (1'19) takes its discharge of energy to a climax. Clarinet and
cello return (2'36) with a repetition of the espressivo ending of their duet. After some alarming eruptions in all three
instruments, the piano (from 3'39) quotes the beginning of the duet with the
expression changed to marcato. The first part of the work is rounded off by a calm alternation
between the notes of a piano chord that is slowly transformed, and which the
clarinet and cello fill out with ever-denser arpeggio figures in a crescendo to
section with the designation ‘very rhythmically' (4'30), unlike the inward first section, has a carefree feel. It is
borne up by pulsating piano chords with shifting syncopations, sometimes
reinforced by the other instruments, and unfolds in pentatonic figures,
harmonies and melodies that are all kept within a major scale that changes from
section to section: a cheerful clarinet theme, a dancing piano solo, a wistful
cello melody, and finally figures from the clarinet theme which initiate a race
of scales ascending and descending until all three reach their goal at the same
The piano punctuates with a semicolon - a
long-held forte fortissimo tonal cluster - and begins (8'49) the last section of the work with
three chords like those that began it, but lower, followed by the duet, now at
a high pitch with descending lines. Yet the reappearance is brief, the double
triad returns and with small fluctuations forms a calmly strolling
accompaniment to a cantabile antiphon between clarinet and cello, until the music fades out.
The trio was composed in 1999 at the
initiative of Ny Musik Odense with support from the Danish Arts Foundation and
was given its first performance at the Carl Nielsen Academy of Music in Odense
the same year by John Kruse, Svend Winsløv and Anne Mette Stæhr.
Synergie, three movements for four guitars
The synergy of the four times six
strings is manifested in different ways in each of the three character pieces.
the simplest. In this, one pair of instruments supplies an accompaniment of
regularly struck chords over a syncopated bass for a melody supported by a
middle voice. The melody starts over several times, each time with an energetic
signal, and dies out in various ways after statements with various durations.
Towards the end the accompaniment stops, then is resuscitated by a final call -
but in vain.
In "Écho" there
is only one accompanying voice, alternately as a gentle humming, rocking
between two notes, and as a tenaciously aspiring bass line which a few times
climbs up and falls down again among the constantly recurring double echo
chords that dominate the piece, apart from two brief four-part interpolations
and a relaxed ending, poco
The wave motions in "Ondes" are produced
by all four instruments gliding in parallel through luscious chords. The
regularity is broken up by staggered accents, by small rhythmic subdivisions
and from 0'57 by lightly falling note lengthenings, followed by faint swells
that end in a melancholy waltz with awkward harmonies. The waves return, but
when the waltz rhythm appears again the music comes to an abrupt end.
Synergie was composed in 1991 with support from the Danish Arts Foundation
and was given its first performance in 1993 in the DR Concert Hall by the
Nordic Guitar Quartet.
Variations for clarinet and string quartet
Each of the three sections consists
of a clarinet melody with a variation. "Melodi I" is pentatonic and consists of
nine notes which are then inverted. It is presented cantabile with grace notes that form another pentatonic scale and is repeated
accompanied by the cello with a counter-voice whose beginning anticipates
"Melodi II". The variation "Kubus" reflects the melody in four other pentatonic
scales, first successively and then simultaneously.
"Melodi II" is a decoration with chromatic
connecting-notes of "Melodi I", played liberamente. The variation is called "Fuga", three passages introduced by a
chord pyramid and consisting of strict canons in two, three and five parts
composed of figures from the melody with inversions and rhythmic patterns. The
clarinet expands the figures into high leaps. In the concluding hectic
‘stretto' the clarinet plays the theme backwards.
"Melodi III" too is based on "Melodi I",
but in this case the connecting-notes remain within the pentatonic scale, and
it is followed by a scale spiral that winds up through two and a half octaves
through changing keys. The variation has the Baroque designation "Gigue", but
the character rather shifts between chamber jazz and minimalism. After the
clarinet has plunged into a virtuoso solo passage it is caught and restrained
by the quartet, which stops while the going is good ...
Variations was commissioned by Edition Samfundet with support
from the Danish Arts Foundation, composed in 2003 and given its first
performance the same year in the concert hall of the Louisiana Museum of Modern
Art by John Kruse and The Kontra Quartet.
Mogens Andersen, 2007