Thursday, 20 August 2015

Five new works written especially by Danish composers represent a fine tribute to the late Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen on a new disc from OUR Recordings

A new release from OUR Recordings entitled Nordic Sound is a tribute to the late Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012). Here five Danish composers have each provided a work for this tribute disc topped off by Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s own Sommasvit for String Orchestra all performed by the Lapland Chamber Orchestra  conducted by Clemens Schuldt  with Michala Petri (recorder)


Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)  was born in Hjørring in Denmark, but grew up in Sweden. It was the countryside and experience of nature of his childhood in Sweden that became a lifelong inspiration to him. He returned to Denmark to study piano at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and instrumentation with Poul Schierbeck and Jørgen Jersild and was one of the first Danish composers to go to the Darmstadt School. Borup-Jørgensen's works include music for orchestra, chamber music, songs with piano and other instruments.

However, the first work on this disc is Bent Sørensen’s (b.1958) Whispering for recorder and strings (2014) which rises out of the silence with strange other-worldly sounds from the strings. Slowly the sound of Michala Petri’s recorder is heard as the music moves ahead with strange sonorities. As the work progresses, the strings continue to appear from the silence in little emerging phrases to which the recorder adds a melancholy quality. Soon a lively tune for recorder appears over the strings that play little phrases. The recorder moves through a variety of passages, melancholy and livelier, before an exquisitely hushed section out of which the recorder slowly rises over a gentle string accompaniment with drooping phrases leading to the coda.

Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s (b.1932)  Music for 13 Strings. For Axel 'Boje' (2014) opens with a swirl of strings with some fine textures before faster, often staccato phrases appear, as the music becomes dramatic. Gudmundsen-Holmgreen creates some terrific string harmonies and textures before a hushed rising and falling passage for strings appears. There are sudden outbursts of dramatic strings as the music moves quickly and lively ahead. The Lapland Chamber Orchestra brings some very fine string sounds to this lovely theme. Eventually there are more dramatic staccato phrases as the music moves rhythmically ahead.  Slowly the music regains its steady forward momentum moving through a variety of passages, slow and intricate then more dramatic with rhythmic stamping of feet from the orchestra before slowing for a rumination of a four note motif. The music leads to a quiet coda with slowly rising and falling strings.

The strings open Sunleif Rasmussen’s (b.1961)  Winter Echoes - Hommage a Axel Borup-Jørgensen for recorder and 13 solo strings (2014) with a determined theme, a terrific overlaying of string sounds. Soon the recorder can be heard in a rising motif that is reflected by the strings.  Soon a short solo passage for recorder arrives before strings hurry along, responded to by the recorder. There is some beautifully pointed, light textured playing from Michala Petri and the orchestra as both bounce off each other.  The strings bring a slower steady passage to which the recorder adds lovely little phrases with the feel of winter is really evoked here. There are some fine flourishes from the recorder as the strings continue the slow steady motion in an exquisite passage leading to a recorder solo where Petri plays a lovely little tune that rises and falls in little flourishes bringing about the end.

Mogens Christensen’s (b.1955) Nordic Summer Scherzo – Concerto for descant recorder and strings (2014) has a sudden opening with trills from the recorder against lively strings. Petri brings some superb playing to this piece with some terrific string sounds from the Lapland Chamber Orchestra in the various textures, sonorities and harmonies. Soon the recorder develops a tune against a hushed, delicately written string accompaniment before moving through some brilliantly written passages with superb, pin point sharp playing from all. Later a subtle rhythmic pulse appears before rapid strings take the music forward, the opening trills return and the fast recorder theme leads the strings to the coda.

Thomas Clausen’s (b.1949)  Concertino for Recorder and Strings (2014) is in four movements, opening with a lively Moderato that brings a lovely little melody for recorder over a fine string accompaniment in this more traditional piece before leading into the exquisite Largo where the strings lead with a plodding rhythmic pulse over which the recorder plays a long flowing melody. Michala Petri brings some lovely little phrases, fine little trills and some beautifully held long lines as the movement progresses.

We jump suddenly into the Moderato, a rather fast moderato with some very fine passages from Petri. The strings of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra are really rather fine with such crisp lively playing. This we are told might have been the end of this concertino except for Michala Petri hoping for a final faster movement to follow. This, the composer happily provided, a Rondo where fast moving strings introduce the theme to which the recorder soon joins.  Petri and the orchestra seem to have terrific fun playing off each other with some playful little phrases from Petri before the music rushes to the end.

Finally we come to Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s (1924-2012) Sommasvit Op. 24 for String Orchestra (1957). In five movements, it takes its title from Sommon, a large forest fringed lake area in northern Småland. Each movement takes us to different places in the area and different times of day.

Morgon: Svalön (Morning: Swallow Island) opens quietly from a high held note and pizzicato strings before developing more dynamic phrases and moving tentatively forward with fine string effects. This is a really evocative piece that just fades to silence.

The strings of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra gently evoke the sound of waves gently lapping in Middag: Böljeskvalp Vid Aspanäs Udde (Noon: Waves lapping at Aspanäs headland). This composer brought a fine ear and much subtlety to his writing, especially in this lovely little movement.

In Afton: Bjälnäs (Evening: Bjälnäs) sonorous strings gently lead ahead with more of a darker feel, the strings slowly shifting in harmonies.

Natt: Höststorm På Storsjön (Night: Autumn storm on the Great Lake) brings fast and stormy string writing with this composer showing just how finely he could create such string textures and sonorities that bring a contemporary twist on a wholly descriptive piece.

Calm is restored for the Epilog a slow moving conclusion with shifting harmonies and carefully crafted dissonances that bring a terrific atmosphere.  

This is a work that demonstrates just what a very fine composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen was. This terrific collection of works represents a fine tribute to this sadly missed composer. The new works provided for this recording are, of course, world premieres. They all receive an excellent recording and there are excellent notes in the well-illustrated booklet.

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