Light and loans from the history of music
Anders Nordentoft writes innovative, poetic music with intuition as his guide. In Lyssætninger (Lightings) the inspiration is the church interior that is the space of the organ. The title refers to the various lightings one can experience in a church, and the first movement is all light. The music actually shines white. The movement begins in shifting times and rests on a descending five-note motif that can be heard right from the start in the oboe part - perhaps this motif is the light descending into the church? The motif twists and turns and forms the point of departure for an organic transformation process. The second movement, in triple time, has elements of darkness contrasting with the pure light of the first movement. Here the light becomes a metaphor of light-heartedness and the darkness an image of contemplation. The composer himself speaks of a simultaneity of light an dark\, which makes the music recall a prism in slow rotation. At the same time the music becomes more sensuous, almost tangible. We hear echoes of the five-note motif of the first movement, while oboe and organ weave long, meditative lines over a rumbling, spasmodic bass, which almost gives up the ghost before the last bars of the piece surprise us with new energy.
As a musicologist, organizer, academy principal and composer, Tage Nielsen ranges wide. He has not composed a huge number of works either. On the other hand, what he has written is of exquisite quality. This is the case with Diptykon (Diptychon), the reference of the Greek title being to a two-panel painted altarpiece. Each of the two movements of the piece is inspired by a traditional musical form closely associated with the organ. In the first movement the form is the passacaglia of the Baroque, which preoccupied Tage Nielsen in his most important orchestral work, Passacaglia from 1981, and which here gives rise to the unchanging repetition of a terse seven-note theme in the organ pedal. Over this theme, compact, toccata-like music unfolds, broken off by the more birdsong-like and rhythmically free expression of the oboe part.
With its improvisatory character the oboe ‘lightens' the dense organ sounds. This is particularly true in the second movement, which takes the form of an organ chorale where the oboe creates bright, separating passages between the more rigid, compactly harmonized periods of the organ. While the experience of the passacaglia form of the first movement is strictly speaking weakened by the interjections of the oboe, these incidents, with their clear separation of the sections of the chorale melody, give the second movement a clear feeling of chorale treatment.
As a composer the organist Leif Thybo further extended the Carl Nielsen-inspired classicism of the interwar years, while in his work we also glimpse traits from neoclassicist composers like Stravinsky, Bartók and Britten. Thybo's Sonate for obo og orgel (Sonata for oboe and organ) finds its stylistic roots, despite the -Classical--Romantic genre designation, as far back as Renaissance music - more specifically in the French composer -Clément Jannequin (c. 1485-1558), who has above all retained his place in the history of music because of his many chansons. Thybo's sonata was based on the same theme by Jannequin over which the French composer Jehan Alain (1911-1940) composed a number of organ variations. Thybo was inspired by the mysticism and humour in Alain's variations, and against this background wrote his own three movements - at the same time -melancholy and witty, archaizing and fresh in their use of the material of the of Renaissance master.
The composer and conductor Ole Schmidt has written a set of variations for oboe and organ based on the melody Lucis creator. As with Leif Thybo it is again the French composer Jehan Alain who hovers in the background. For it was he who composed the chorale theme presented with stately dignity in the organ pedal, symbolizing the voice of the Creator. The first variation, with its delicate syncopations, is characteristic of the bright, lyrical and sometimes contemplative mood that typifies the work. The second movement has a passacaglia character and permits the oboe to speak more freely with what the composer describes as \\creative cascades of sound\\. The third variation begins without the oboe, which only later takes over the organ's large-intervalled figures. The variation is coloured by an almost floating tonality contrasting with the divinely pure C major triad that concludes the second variation. The fourth variation is of the greatest delicacy. One glimpses the light, and the oboe plays the whole chorale melody as a sign of the consummation of the Creation, before the music moves in the fifth and final variation from Chaos to Cosmos in a transport of joy that lets the universe dance. This last variation approaches its close with a luxuriant oboe cadenza exhibiting beautiful flashes of the original chorale melody. It is a concertante variation and includes compositional finesses in the form of imitations and inversions; an encomium of the Creator of Light, ending with serene joy over the exclamation \\ - and there was light!\\
As for the French inspiration in Peter Møller's Fem karakterstykker (Five character pieces), the composer has explained in a programme note that both Couperin and Rameau were in the back of his mind during the work on the five movements. He further explains that stylistically the suite involves little else that could recall the Baroque. Rather, the five movements represent \\a journey through the different epochs of both eastern and western musical culture\\. In the true postmodernist spirit the first movement confronts the elegant French Baroque overture's characteristic double-dotting in the organ with the pentatonic scale of classical Chinese music, which is heard in the oboe part. Despite a brief suggestion of a conjunction of the two different worlds they quickly part again, and the movement ends as it began: polytonally, and with two musicians who literally play in east and west. The next movement, a grave allemande, has little but the 2/4 time in common with the dance suites of the Baroque. For in the organ we hear a classical Indian raga accompanied by an independent bass part which repeats the ancient Indian rhythmic formula chandrakalâ. Above this the oboe traces out orientally inspired arabesques. After China and India it is the turn of the European Middle Ages, whose early polyphony is heard again in the organ part of the third movement. Despite its sarabande-like character, the fourth movement returns to the inspiration from classical Indian music, and in this movement too one notes the feeling of the modal and the polytonal that is characteristic of the whole suite.
Thomas Michelsen, 2004\\\