Per Nørgård: Sceneries for percussion and ensemble
28 January 2013
American Record Guide
Per Norgard (born in 1932) studied in Copenhagen with Vagn Holmboe. He described himself musically as “(standing) with one foot in western rationalism and the other in eastern mysticism”. I suggest listening to this release one piece at a time. The first time I put it on was while driving to work; my patience lasted about 35 minutes (my interest lasted a mere 15). I switched over to the radio and Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over, Beethoven” was playing; I cranked it up and gratefully sang along. After a while, down-tempo, dissonant, semi-aleatoric, percussion-based music makes me want something else in the worst possible way. The musical saw (a standard wood saw played on the flat edge with a violin bow, sounding like a less-charming version of a theremin) put me over the edge.
Now, Prelude to Breaking—as in waves, specifically off the coast of southern India—is ravishing in its way. Four Meditations even has some odd jazzy moments that made me smile when I noticed them. Arabesques, for solo percussion, would be best appreciated by other solo percussionists, I believe. Three Scenes, for percussion and six instruments, is restless and scattershot. Still, craft is admirable even when the results don’t appeal to me, and Norgard has craft. The musicians are skilled as well, and the sound is a little on the cool side—it suits the music. Notes in English and Danish.