Bent Lorentzen: Czardas (2006)
Recomposition of Vittorio Monti (1868-1922): Czardas
Bent Lorentzen's (b. 1935) starting-point was in the Danish traditions of the -fifties (his teachers included Vagn Holmboe and Finn Høffding), but in many ways he has completely abandoned these - in the -sixties especially by way of electronic music, where his creativity found new paths. Bent Lorentzen has composed in all genres, but his unusual music dramas have been particularly conspi-cuous. They are often composed with tapes and computers, and almost always have librettos by the composer. Lorentzen has also written instrumental concertos and organ music. His timbre-oriented music often has suggestive qualities, an infectious atmosphere and evocative power. He also has a taste for the provocative and grotesque, and loves to challenge good taste\.
About the work
On the occasion of the Danish Refugee Council's fiftieth anniversary I chose to recompose Vittorio Monti's Czardas for Ensemble Nordlys' line-up of violin, clarinet, cello and piano, but in such a way that the original would be easily recognizable. It came easily to me; I have always been fascinated by Brahms' Hungarian Dances and Haydn's Rondo all'ongrese with their clearly defined sections: expressiveness contrasted with extreme rapidity!
Niels Marthinsen: Perpetuum mobile (2006)
Recomposition of Johann Strauss (1825-1899): Perpetuum mobile -
ein musikalsicher Scherz, op. 7(1861)
Niels Marthinsen (b. 1963) made his official début in 3, but by the middle of the 1980s he was already a busy composer. He studied music at the Royal Academy of Music, Århus from 1982-90 with among other Poul Ruders and Per Nørgård. Marthinsen has received several scholarships and grants and outstanding ensembles and orchestras both in Denmark and abroad have performed his music. An amazingly long string of works has come from Marthinsen's pen. They are written in well nigh all sizes and genres and they are often extremely demanding technically. In the worklist we find four solo concertos, three operas, a symphony (in two versions) and many works for sinfonietta or chamber ensemble, often with virtuoso features.
About the work
Do you remember Willy Boskowsky, the fiddler who conducted the New Year's concert in Vienna with his violin in his hand? He was the one who turned to the audience and told them "und so geht es weiter" as the final bars of -Johann Strauss' Perpetuum mobile died away. I've never forgotten that, it was the first time I had heard a piece without an ending ...and I've always dreamt of making an upgraded version of that musical joke. So here it is; bon appetit!
Jørgen Messerschmidt: Siciliano - With a Little Tango (2006)
Recomposition of J.S. Bach (1685-1750): "Siciliano" from
Flute Sonata BWV 1031 (1730)
While studying musicology at the University of Copenhagen, Jørgen Messerschmidt (b. 1960) was active as a jazz pianist and composer with his own groups Contempo Trio and Jørgen Messer-schmidt Quartet. He graduated in 2001 in composition from the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen as a student of Ib Nørholm, Niels Rosing-Schow and Hans Abrahamsen. He has written works for Ars Nova Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, the Danish Philharmonic Orchestra and the Esbjerg Ensemble. Jørgen Messerschmidt is also active in the field of computer-based electroacoustic music.
About the work
Siciliano, written for Ensemble Nordlys, is based on the second movement of J.S. Bach's Flute Sonata BWV 1031. The composition is not an arrangement of the original, but rather a composition inspired by it. Siciliano: A journey from the past to the present via a variety of different styles and forms of expression. The theme, which is simple and melodious, appears in many different guises - sometimes in beautiful harmony, as in the opening tango, but most often with an underlying tone of insanity and madness.
Juliana Hodkinson: Befall(2005)
Recomposition of Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849): Prelude in E minor, op. 28 no. 4
Juliana Hodkinson (b. 1971) is a composer and arts writer from the UK, but has been based in Denmark since coming to study composition with Per Nørgård and Hans Abrahamsen. From a background in chamber music, she has since developed her composing activities towards mixed formats such as instrumental theatre, installation-performance, and film. A number of her pieces seek to re-actualize works from the classical-romantic repertoire, such as "Katrine's Corridor" (a sound-based video installation) and "The recital piece", both based on fragments of Schubert's B major Sonata D 960.
About the work
Chopin's Prelude in E minor, op. 28 no. 4 is a piece which never ceases to haunt me - the way in which it falls and falls, a form of disintegration, yet still remains intact. I could have written a million versions of the piece with echoes of this falling. One of my favourite Danish novels is Peer Hultberg's fictitious Chopin (auto-) biography "Præludier". Chopin actually died as a political refugee after having fled Poland with thousands of his fellow-countrymen following an unsuccessful rebellion against the Russian Tsar Nicholas I in 1830. Chopin used his first major international tour as an opportunity to escape and settled in Paris (the capital of his father's abandoned native country). He refused to recognise the occupation of Poland and would not set foot in the Russian embassy to renew his passport; this prevented him from ever returning to his native country. After his death, however, his sister had his heart placed in a column in a church in Warsaw, while the rest of his body was buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. The last recital Chopin ever gave was to an audience of Polish refugees in London.
Ole Buck: Flight of the Bumble-Bee (2006)
Recomposition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908): "Flight of the Bumble-Bee"
from The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1899-1900)
Ole Buck (b. 1945) is one of the best kept secrets in Danish contemporary music. He is unknown to the general public, esteemed by all who have heard his music. Ole Buck has developed his own "new simplicity" and has worked with repetitions of a small number of crystallized tones, which are dabbed through the music like brush-stokes in a Japanese drawing. With his pristine expressive idiom, many stylistic elements find a place in Buck's music. His works are elaborated down to the smallest detail, with many exquisite, elegant features. On the surface the music may seem cool, but beneath this there are always narrative or playful elements. Ole Buck has composed several chamber works in succession as well as instrumental works for large ensembles, for example the four-seasons piece Landskaber(Landscapes).
About the work
Rimsky-Korsakov's fantastic "Flight of the Bumble-Bee" (Humlebiens flugt, Poljot melja, Der Hummelflug, Le vol du bourdon, Il volo del calabrone) was to me the obvious choice for this"recycled" CD - partly because Rimsky-Korsakov is one of my favourite composers altogether, and partly because I have never been able to play the Bumble-Bee properly on the piano; the notes themselves aren't so difficult but they have to be played as fast as possible in a constant perpetuum mobile, which requires considerable piano technique. And finally, the idea behind the piece is woven from the same fabric as fairy-tales: Prince Tsar Saltan learns from the Swan-Bird how to turn himself into an insect so that he can secretly visit his father and sting his wicked aunt! I have kept within this framework, although allowing myself some individual freedom, so that the work as a whole retains its original character.
Sven Erik Werner: Vilja-Parafrase (2006)
Recomposition of Franz Lehár (1870-1948): "Vilja-Lied" from Die lustige Witwe (1905)
Sven Erik Werner (b. 1937) began on his real composing career at a mature age. At first he worked in the Music Section of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, and then for fifteen years he was principle of the Carl Nielsen Academy of Music. Only from 1989 did he begin to work as a full-time composer. In this respect Werner is self-taught. He is particularly inspired by recent Polish music, and the corresponding Danish type of "new simplicity", while his works from the 1990s are more lyrical. He writes mainly for chamber ensemble, solo instruments and choir, but has also written operas and orchestral music.
About the work
"Nothing is so old that it cannot become new again!" claimed Villy Sørensen in his book Hverken-Eller (Neither-nor) (1962). His words could well have been a motto for my contribution to this CD, Vilja-Parafrase, which is an attempt to reinterpret the lovely Vilja aria from Franz Lehár's operetta The Merry Widow. The piece also contains a couple of unavoidable detours to Carl Nielsen (Little Suite for Strings) and Jacob Gade (Tango Jalousie). The old order of beauty might be physically dead, but it lives on in our collective consciousness, and frequently presents itself as a challenge. Perhaps the paraphrase is simply a condition of life.
Sven Erik Werner
Martin Lohse: Liebestraum (2006)
Recomposition of Franz Liszt (1811-1886): Liebesträume, no. 3 in A flat major (1850)
Martin Lohse (b. 1971) studied musicology at the University of Copenhagen as well as music theory and composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen as a student of Hans Abrahamsen and Niels -Rosing-Schow. He has participated in the Young Nordic Music Festival (Oslo, 1998) and in the NUMUS Festival in Aarhus, in concerts at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and at Danmarks Radio, with performances of his music by ensembles including Ars Nova Copenhagen and the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra. Martin Lohse is also active as a visual artist; his paintings are abstract, with clear, dominant primary colours.
About the work
Liebestraum was written for Ensemble Nordlys and is an arrangement, or rather re-composition, of Liszt's famous Liebestraum for piano. When Nordlys contacted me about their project to arrange "classics" in new ways, I immediately thought of Liebestraum. The piece has one of the most beautiful melodies I know of, and an accompaniment in which I saw many possibilities. The recomposed work is permeated with various forms of rhythmical displacement; at the beginning of the work, for example, I have changed the basic sense of the accompaniment's 6/8 time to the less common 5/8 and added an extra violin part which follows the 5/8 feeling, despite having been written in 4/8. Liebestraum is traditionally played with a good deal of rubato and some displacement of the melody in relation to the accompaniment; it is this feeling I have built upon in my arrangement. The many different tempo layers give stronger impression of rubato/displacement between the instruments, something which can only be achieved, paradoxically, if the musicians play considerably more precisely than they would intuitively expect to in such a delightful and beautiful romantic work from the old world.
Lars Hegaard: Scarlatti in the Mist (2005)
Recomposition of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757): Sonata for harpsichord in F minor, K. 481
Lars Hegaard studied the guitar with Ingolf Olsen at the Carl Nielsen Academy of Music and composition with Niels Viggo -Bentzon (1975-76) and Ib Nørholm (1977-80) at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copen-hagen. In 1983 he was awarded the three-year grant of the National Arts Foundation and since then he has received annual working grants. Besides extensive music teaching -activities he has composed almost eighty works for different ensembles, from solo music to orchestral works, including three symphonies.
About the work
Scarlatti in the Mist was composed in 2005 for Ensemble Nordlys in conjunction with the "recycled" project for Dansk Flygtningehjælp (Danish Refugee Council). It is based on Scarlatti's Sonata in F minor (K. 481), which I chose partly because it is unbelievably wonderful music, and partly because its transparent texture makes it possible to add foreign material. In order to make room for my own music and build a bridge between the two I have suspended a grid over the original piece, perforated it so to speak, and twisted the harmonies a little. Thus Scarlatti's original appears only in glimpses, enshrouded in a gentle mist of foreign material extracted from the first four notes.
Andy Pape: Prelude in E flat minor (2006)
Recomposition of J.S. Bach: "Prelude in E flat minor"
from Das wohltemperierte Klavier, BWV 853 (1722)
Andy Pape (b. 1955) is American-born, but very Danish in his down-to-earth attitude to contemporary music. In 1990, with the film director Erik Clausen, he created the chamber opera Houdini den Store (The Great Houdini) which had unheard-of success with audiences as a touring, carnival-like show. Andy Pape was a pupil of Ib Nørholm. In his works he questions the post-war avant-garde, and provides the answer himself with inspiration from American minimalism, Neo-Classicism and the pure joy of playing and composing.
About the work
Recycling old music: it sounds fascinating and very politically correct in this ecological age. But the task appealed to me, not least as I began to think about what "old" piece of music to recycle. My choice soon fell on one of the preludes from J.S. Bach's Das wohltemperierte Klavier, the E flat minor prelude to be precise; not perhaps one of the most performed, but to me one of the most fascinating. The prelude is a sort of instrumental aria, a song which grows out of a series of chords which is repeated in a more insistent continuation. This rhythmic repetition pervades the entire piece with the exception of a couple of places where it ceases in a most striking manner. The aria or melody itself has a typical Bach-like dynamic quality, striving forward all the time until it finally falls silent. What fascinates me about the prelude, beyond its almost ethereal beauty, is the way in which Bach manages to make time stand still. I have had this project in mind while continuing to work on the piece; my re-working is approximately 33% longer than Bach's original. Beyond this, it has been my intention to place the music under a magnifying glass, resulting in the expansion of time in those places where I have chosen to magnify the original piece. Another fascinating aspect of the prelude is Bach's treatment of dissonances. Here I have chosen to lengthen certain notes, thereby placing dissonances under the magnifying glass. Never at any time has it been my intention to try to improve upon Bach; that is something which cannot be done. Rather it has been my intention to write music that can be placed alongside Bach's original, thereby allowing it to be heard anew - as if for the first time.
Per Nørgård: Nacht und Träume (2006)
Recomposition of Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Nacht und Träume, D 827 (1825)
At a young age he became a private pupil of Vagn Holmboe, and his earliest works were in the master's "Nordic" idiom. The First Symphony and the string works Constellations are the high points of this period. Nørgård's incredibly sensitive curiosity drove him to explore the potential of Central European Modernism. But after a few years he arrived at his own serial technique, the"infinity series", the mechanisms of which can be compared to the growth and symmetry of nature. Using this technique, Nørgård wrote some of his most important works, for example the Third Symphony. In the 1980s Nørgård concentrated on the opposite of the harmony of the infinity series: chaos and fragmentation typify his works. In the 1990s, he has worked with -sophisticated layerings of rhythms and lines, and has focused on the effects of"inter-ference" in his quest to capture the music that otherwise escapes our ears.
About the work
There is only one stanza in Schubert's song Nacht und Träume: the invocation of nocturnal dreams, which enchant us and which we long for as they fade at our waking: "Come back!" The wonderful melodic lines of the vocal part are accompanied by an unbroken sequence of chords in the piano. But it is the wildness and fantasy of the dream-world in the song that I have sought to express in the wide-spanning arches and rhythmical diversity of my arrangement - along the wandering melody and through its similarly wandering harmonies.