Wild virtuosity in the piano works of Niels Viggo Bentzon
Niels Viggo Bentzon was both a virtuoso pianist and an extremely productive composer. On 3 February a new album will be released, containing Bentzon's four, big piano works recorded by Ramez Mhaanna.
Besides being a highly productive composer, who produced art as naturally as breathing, Niels Viggo Bentzon (1919-2000) was a virtuoso pianist and an excellent improviser. This new album presents creative and technically challenging piano works, which Niels Viggo Bentzon played himself at full blast in order to showcase his talents, in new recordings by the talented, up-and-coming young pianist Ramez Mhaanna.
To Niels Viggo Bentzon, improvisation and composition was two sides of the same coin and many of his works have the character of frozen improvisations.
‘Actually, for me there is no difference between composition and improvisation’, he said in an interview in 1988. ‘The only thing I can do […] is to put my paws to the keyboard in the way I feel is right from the outset – that shows itself, too, in most cases, to be the right thing to do – and then my paws move a little. Trusting the hands to get it right’.
The new album contains four, big and techincally demanding works written between 1945 and 1950, which in different ways demonstrate a development,
which overtakes pianistic virtuosity and points instead toward compositional genius.
Baroque affinity and absurd art
The works Toccata, Partita and Passacaglia together form a trilogy with late Baroque affinity, especially inspired by Bach, which is acknowledged in the Bachian
titles of the works.
With Partita, Bentzon takes his leave from the Baroque as his dominant inspiration and opens a door to something contemporary and new. Partita was completed in 1945, the year when war turned to peace and worry turned to hope, and we hear the conflict between darkness and light as the main subject in the work.
The fourth work of the album, Træsnit (Woodcuts), points forward to later compositions and was inspired by a Dada-ist group of artists called Linien II, of which Bentzon himself was a member. In this group, radical artists met and at exhibitions they combined the visual experiences of pictures with auditory elements, including musical pieces by Bentzon, performed by the composer himself.
Ramez Mhaanna (b. 1992) is an internationally renowned Danish pianist with a Russian and Lebanese background. He graduated from the Gnesin Russian
Academy of Music in Moscow and from the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He has toured in China, performed at prestigious festivals in Russia and as solist with orchestras such as Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Nordic Chamber Orchestra and Qingdao Orkesteret.