Subscribe to Dacapo's newsletter

New album by Rovsing Olsen is celebrated at a concert at the National Gallery of Denmark

New album by Rovsing Olsen is celebrated at a concert at the National Gallery of Denmark

On Wednesday, 24 October, the album The Planets with chamber music by Poul Rovsing Olsen is being released. On the same day, the works on the album will be performed at a concert at The National Gallery of Denmark (SMK), where a visual origin of the work The Planets can be experienced.

10 October 2018

Composer Poul Rovsing Olsen (1922-82) himself said that it was his dream “to make music be as direct as possible, to bring it closer to the listener”. On October 24th the album The Planets is released, which features his last composition, a string trio named A Dream in Violet, as well as four world premiere recordings: two other instrumental works and two pieces for voice and instruments.

The new album has been recorded by Signe Asmussen, soprano, Ulla Miilmann, flute, Christian Martínez, percussion, Anette Slaatto, viola, Helge Slaatto, violin, Jonathan Slaatto, cello and Frederik Munk Larsen, guitar, all of whom will be performing at the concert at SMK on 24 October.

Block book from the 15th century becomes music

The title work of the album, The Planets, for mezzo-soprano, flute, viola and guitar, was composed in spring 1978. The source of inspiration for the work was the 50th anniversary of the discovery of a block book from the second half of the 15th century, with texts about the planets.

Poul Rovsing Olsen wrote the following about the work:
The Planets derives from the block book found in Lerchenborg’s library in 1928. Seven fine, coloured drawings tell of the seven celestial bodies which in many European languages have given the weekdays their names. Each drawing is accompanied by a Latin text, under which there is a two-line dictum that briefly – though very concisely – gives an account of the characteristics of the children who belong to that particular celestial body. And these concentrated portrayals form the basis for the music. In the music I have attempted to give indications of my own experience of the particular power and nature characterizing each one of the heavenly bodies, just as I have allowed this cycle of planet songs to pass like a journey through the ethereal realms with motifs that appear, are repeated, are varied and disappear (but only so as to be replaced by new ones), until we finally return to the point of departure. The introduction – Aether – is purely instrumental. Two of the planets – Venus and Luna – are female; in the music written for them small (Indian) cymbals are used that are also present in Aether.”

Music of distant countries left its mark

Poul Rovsing Olsen was educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and subsequently in Paris, where he studied under the highly regarded teacher Nadia Boulanger and the renowned composer Olivier Messiaen. Alongside his studies of classical music, Rovsing Olsen cultivated his passion for Oriental music, and at the Parisian Musée de l’Homme, with its extensive collection of tapes and records with the music of peoples from faroff countries, he was able to steep himself in the musical languages. This interest was to have great importance for his later life and work.

In 1958, Poul Rovsing Olsen was on the team working under the Danish professor P.V. Glob on archaeological excavations near the Persian Gulf, which enabled him to realise his great wish to experience Oriental music in its authentic environment. This marked the beginning of his professional work on ethnomusicology. Apart from numerous trips to Arab countries he also carried out research assignments in India, Egypt, Turkey and Greenland and his oeuvre includes a number of ethnomusicological publications and record issues. 

His work on the music of distant countries also left its mark on Rovsing Olsen’s own music, which comprises 85 opus numbers. As a composer, he was neither traditionalist or a highly experimental avant-gardist. It is by allowing elements of Western and Oriental music traditions to interact that he develops his own extremely personal mode of expression, one that brings the sounds of the Orient into Danish music.

The new album with Poul Rovsing Olsen's chamber music is available from October 24th. Dacapo has also released a.o. Rovsing Olsen's songs and orchestral works.
  • Poul Rovsing Olsen

    Planeterne – musik for stemme og instrumenter

  • Poul Rovsing Olsen


  • Poul Rovsing Olsen

    Klaverkoncert og orkesterværker

Programme for the evening

18.00: Introduction to the planet book by Hanne Kolind Poulsen, senior research curator at The Royal Collection of Graphic Art at SMK 

18.15: Concert: The Planets, A Dream in Violet, Rencontres, Pour une Viole d’Amour, Alapa–Tarana written by the composer Poul Rovsing Olsen (1920-1982)

19.30: Celebration of the issuing of the album The Planets. Dacapo invites guests to a glass of wine in Sculpture Street, where the new album can be bought at a favourable price.

Both before and after the concert you can see the pages of the planet book at an exclusive special viewing in Sculpture Street.