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Per Nørgård Orchestral Music

Borderlines (Violin Concerto No. 2) (2002)
Dream Play (1975)*
Voyage into the Golden Screen
* World Premiere Recording
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra/Giordano Bellincampi, conductorRebecca Hirsch, violin


dacapo 8.226014 [52 mins]


Sergiu Celibidache once said: "Only the consciousness of the future in the new millennium will be able to fully understand the powers of Per Nørgård's music".

Per Nørgård (b. 1932), the leading Danish composer of his generation, has taken time to be fully established here (so many indigenous composers are always jostling for recognition) but he is occasionally featured in UK, notably at Hoxton July 2000, when he gave a fascinating talk about his 'infinity series', and at the Cheltenham Festival where this violin concerto Borderlines was premiered. The Town Hall was not an ideal venue for music of such sonic complexity, with different tunings juxtaposed simultaneously, so it is good to have it now on CD, in a fine World Premiere recording with the same British soloist.

Voyage into the Golden Screen ( 1968) was Nørgård's breakthrough composition in his unique 'infinity principle', illustrated in the booklet and clearly audible to the listener. In Dream Play (1975), Per Nørgård demonstrates the loving aspects of humanity, with melodies harmonically interconnected by the infinity series. In the world of the violin concerto Borderlines (2002) the soloist lives with two 'keys' in the accompaniment, one an ordinary 'well-tempered' scale, the other with microtones produced as harmonics, their moods alternating often abruptly.

Rather difficult music but rewarding and a work which repays rehearing, as do the others also on this valuable CD. Performances and recording appear to be excellent, and the accompanying notes are helpful. Short measure in clock time, but unreasonable to want or expect more with such demanding repertoire.

Review of UK premiere at Cheltenham Town Hall July 2002
NORGARD Borderlines, BACH Brandenburg Concerto No 3 , STRAVINSKY Dumbarton Oaks Concerto, MOZART Jupiter Symphony. City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox and Rebecca Hirsch (violin)

The world premiere of Borderlines , Per Nørgård 's new concertante work, for violin solo with a small group of strings and percussion, jointly commissioned with partners in Denmark & Finland, was introduced by the composer, who rejected the 'interview' format which had inhibited him at Hoxton, leaving Michael Berkeley with nothing to do but thank him for his exposition. Violins and violas in equal temperament represent the workaday world; cellos and basses the 'other' spiritual world which humanity needs, characterised by 'harmonics seven and eleven semitones above the open string, 'between notes you can play on the piano'. Sovereign mastery of normal and microtonal technique and a high degree of flexibility' is demanded of the soloist to relate alternately to these two worlds.

was not recorded for broadcasting, nor scheduled for further UK performances this year, regrettably, since it proved to be the wrong piece in the wrong concert in the wrong hall, those subtleties impossible to hear properly against the ambient background sounds usual in most concert venues. Nor was it well placed after Stravinsky's razor-sharp neo-classicism. Nørgård's music was predominantly slow and inward through three movements taking 22 minutes. I found it hard to take in at first meeting; it needs repeated hearings to capture its special qualities, ideally in an acoustically perfect concert hall such as Lucerne's, or on CD.

© Peter Grahame Woolf