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Composing, for Niels Viggo Bentzon, is like breathing - and, in principle, just as essential. He is unable to live without it. That's the way it's been for the most part ever since the composer debut 60 years ago, and that's the way it is still. Even though he prefers to compose on the piano, he is capable of composing everywhere he turns. And he is capable of using anything at all as music paper, if need be. When he, in connection with the birth of his youngest son Nikolaj in 1964, composed the whole of his The Tempered Piano op. 157 during the course of 14 hectic days, he used everything he came across for writing down the many ideas which rained down upon him: music paper, shopping paper, matchboxes and the like. In all this - the legendary productivity, the necessity of creating all the time, the independence from especially external frameworks and circumstances - unmistakably he resembles Duke Ellington whom he has venerated greatly most of his life.

Within Danish music he is in a class by himself. By virtue of his originality and his mastery, by virtue of the voluminous chronicle of works and - the interwoven norm-disrupting, at times almost surrealistic, sideline activities. A red thread does indeed run through the bulk of the sixty years of compositional expressions, but surprising departures and stylistic intermezzi form part of the physiognomy as well. A fact which at times has helped to confuse the outside world and scratch his reputation. Nevertheless, the fact is that it all belongs together, large as well as small, significant and less significant, that which is suitable for the concert hall, and that which is more suitable for the Zoo. The traditional middle-class musical life's conception of purified masterpieces like pearls on a string doesn't fit into the picture of the creative Bentzon at all. Rather (as he himself has pointed out), it would be proper to speak of a sequence of production where less substantial works are the prerequisite for the masterpieces to a high degree. Or as he expressed it following the first performance of his 5th symphony: "I set the stage for the major works through the medium of the minor ones. The minor ones are a kind of buffer. It's similar to the way it is with an accumulator. It recharges bit by bit." And even though perhaps he wouldn't formulate it thus today, the relationship is still the same - with the continuously flowing crystallization of outstanding works. There are certainly not a few more recent Danish classics that bear Bentzon's name.

He was born, so to speak, into the music on August 24, 1919. On the mother's side he thus belongs to one of the most eminent Danish musical families throughout more than two hundred years, in as much as his mother, pianist Karen Bentzon, was the grandchild of J.P.E. Hartmann who in his turn descended from the German immigrant Joh. Ernst Hartmann. And on the father's side the music manifested itself especially through Niels Viggo's older cousins, the composer Jørgen Bentzon and the flautist Johan Bentzon. Instruction provided by his mother, as well as briefly during his boyhood years by jazz pianist Leo Mathisen, preceded the professional education in piano, music theory and organ that took place at The Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen during the years 1938-42, and in addition to final examinations in the major subjects mentioned it was consummated with an official piano debut in 1943. Subsequently, 1950-88, Bentzon himself presided as a teacher at the academy in Copenhagen, from 1960 as a lecturer.

The compositional process began quite suddenly in the summer of 1939. With no background in compositional instruction of any kind, he composed Piano Fantasia op. 1 A that he later in the year performed for the first time himself at a DUT-concert that provided him with a remarkable review in the Danish Music Magazine (Dansk Musiktidsskrift) by Vagn Holmboe: "a more than conventionally promising debut, - a young composer who skips an entire series of trial stages; and here one doesn't even have the feeling that it's necessary to point out the danger of doing this."

The concatenation between composer and executant was, right from the start, one of the distinctive characteristics of his musical efforts, although with the added dimension that he was and is a brilliant impro-visor. This can be sensed clearly in an early major work such as the Toccata for piano op. 10 (1941), which precisely joins the improvisation's fantasizing, somewhat rampant character with an astonishingly sure and economic implementation of material, form and tonality. Especially the opening part is, with all its expressivity and expansive breadth, a model example of an utterly economic use of a few basic-motifs and -intervals which control the sequence on several levels, including the tonality. When authoritative and imaginative use of the piano is added to that, it is no wonder that the critics now spoke of "a composer from whom one can expect the unusual."

Other characteristic piano works from the early years are Passacaglia op. 31 (1944) and Partita op. 38 (1945) where Bentzon draws on the forms of the Baroque after the fashion of for example Hindemith who is, incidentally, together with Carl Nielsen and Brahms, one of his chief inspirations during those years. With the Partita, Bentzon achieved his international breakthrough during the World Music Days (ISCM) in Copenhagen in 1947, and was acclaimed as one of Scandinavian music's true greats - both as composer and pianist. Particular attention was paid to the music's spontaneity and wide scale of expression, ranging from practical mechanics beyond lyrical intensity to impetuously inflamed expressivity and tremendous discharges of sound that at the same time, however, went hand in hand with structural concentration. While the linear aspect is quite prominent in the Toccata, in the Passacaglia and in the Partita it is diminished in favour of the harmonic elements of sound which form the basis of a monumental, almost orchestral, piano style based on characteristic technical instrumental details such as the frequent use of broken sonorous figures in two parts, consecutive third and sixth successions, octave passages, and various characte-ristic chords. There is the true sense of a practising musician behind this music, and on several occasions even Bentzon himself has also characterized his compositional efforts as a kind of frozen improvisation.

Moreover, his work as a performer has been going on throughout all the years and during the first decades included several concert trips abroad culminating in 1957 in the form of a four-month tour to the USA. The core repertoire has naturally consisted of his own works, but especially during the 1940's and the 1950's he also played other modern composers, among these especially music by Schönberg and Hindemith. In this connection the pianist Bentzon's continuous need for newly composed piano music has undoubtedly contributed to the fact that a good fourth of his now more than 650 works are for solo piano. In addition to countless individual works such as those already mentioned, two major series of works dominate: 25 numbered sonatas (as well as a few which are unnumbered), and 13 hour-long collections entitled The Tempered Piano that each consist of 24 preludes and 24 fugues. The sonatas cover a time span of about 50 years, and the work series contains many that almost have the status of classics within Danish piano music, a.o. no. 3 op. 44 (1946) and no. 5 op. 77 (1951), as well as a later work such as 'Hoffmann' sonata op. 248. In the sonatas one senses directly his close relationship to the European tradition: "The classic forms, including the symphony, have been present within my body since all the way back in my childhood...this the mainstay for the whole of the European way of thinking in all aspects." Together with Bentzon being deeply rooted in tonality and neoclassicism, this form outlook constitutes one of the pillars of the always deeply personal and easily recognizable tone language that during the 1940s and into the 1950's was marked by considerable expressivity with large dynamic fluctuations and at times a quite compact harmony, but which has since that time been considerably simplified in the way that the texture during the recent decades has often been very transparent.

Despite this basic stylistic foundation, there have still been periods with unmistakable deviations in the attitude towards form and style: For example, during the years 1948-55, where Bentzon was very preoccupied with metamorphosis as a principle, even though the border to more traditional variation techniques was often very fluid (and there was still room for strongly marked variation works) - and especially during the years 1959-62. Here, he deliberately aimed at a 'modernization' of his tone language through the increased use of chromatics and a tendency towards dodecaphony under the inspiration of a.o. the Viennese School (especially Alban Berg); a modernity that at intervals has also later left its distinct marks on Bentzon's music. The connection with the fluxus movement from the middle of the 1960's also should be mentioned here. It is probably the finest example of Bentzon's propensity for breaking the norm, and has not only shown itself in a series of fluxus-characterized works and happenings based on a.o. graphic notation, but in various ways has also been communicated to other parts of his work, his attitude, certain work titles, etc. At the same time, it is important to note the following statement: "It is a contrast to my music...because if there's one thing I'm not, then it's norm-disrupting within the music. On the contrary, the norms interest me tremendously."

On the whole, the list of works embraces all genres, although the main stress lies on the instrumental music unequivocally. And even though it is undeniable that the piano music takes up a great deal of room, it is worth emphasizing the significance of the works for orchestra as well as the chamber music. Thus, Bentzon, with as many as 24 symphonies (of which several are very weighty), must be regarded as one of Denmark's great symphonists. The breakthrough in that respect came in 1947 with the 3rd symphony which is a grandiose, predominantly traditionally conceived work that is a clear continuation of the Carl Nielsen tradition. The majority of the rest of the symphonies also build on the tradition, even though various pronounced variants and deviations occur. Even the important 4th symphony op. 55 ("The Metamorphosis", 1948) distances itself in various ways from the traditionalism of the predecessor, both concerning the orchestration and through the use of the metamorphosis technique that the 5th symphony op. 61 (1950) and 7th symphony op. 83 (1951-52) as well as other works from those years also are strongly characterized by. But where the 4th symphony has three movements with the 1st movement, according to the traditional practice, as the most weighty, the 5th symphony has five movements and is arranged as an enormous intensification, culmination and relaxation. The central movement, an extensive, beautiful and very concentrated adagio movement of great emotional weight, constitutes the work's focal point and culmination, while the surrounding movements are interdependently related as a pair (1st and 5th, 2nd and 4th movements, respectively). This 'break' with common practice can very well put one in mind of Bartokian forming ideals, and in addition is well in keeping with Bentzon's handling of the sonata form in many works during precisely these years where frequent use of inverted reprise points in the same direction. Besides this, much later a work such as the one-movement 16th symphony op. 509 (1987) displays related form characteristics.

While the first 13 symphonies are distributed more or less equally up until 1965, and where the majority of them (symphonies 1-9) are of considerable weight with a duration of 30-45 minutes, it is necessary to go all the way to 1980 before Bentzon again completes a work within the genre. The duration is now generally reduced just as the orchestration is characterized by greater ease through the use of fewer mixed timbres. This characteristic is found as early as a work such as 5 Mobiles op.125 for orchestra (1960) which is one of the many other works for the large symphonic ensemble that falls outside of the symphony as genre and together with the now classic Symphonic variations op. 92 (1953) and Chronicle on René Descartes op. 357 (1975-76) figure centrally on the list of works. Furthermore, Bentzon's numerous instrumental concerts belong to this category the majority of which are large-scale concerts such as, for example, the 4th piano concerto op. 96 (1954), the very atmosphere charged (and Berg-influenced) 2nd violin concerto op. 136 (1961), and the clarinet concerto op. 269 (1970-71), although other types such as the very outstanding Chamber concerto for 11 instruments op. 52 (1948) are also found.

The chamber music is a whole chapter in itself with 14 string quartets, 5 wind quintets, many works for other ensemble combinations, and especially numerous sonatas for solo instrument and piano. The last-mentioned category again reflects Bentzon as the performer who, in connection with the first performances, has often attended to the piano part. Moreover, one finds here examples of some of the most inspired works he has written, a.o. Sonata for clarinet and piano op. 63 (1950), just as varying musician alliances can be read now and then, for example sonatas for saxophone and piano from the middle of the 1980's. Among the ensemble works, one finds older pieces such as Mosaique Musicale op. 54 (1950) and Sonata for 12 instruments op. 257 (1970) as well as more recent pieces such as for example Choro Daniensis op. 548 (1990) and Tsetse-fly op. 608 (1995) that bears witness to a life in continuous contact with young ensembles.

Bentzon's initial wrestling with scenic expression was through the ballet with music for the ballets Metaphor op. 58 (1949), The Courtesan op. 89 (1953) and The Door op. 141 (1962) that were all produced at The Royal Theatre. Only after this did he try his hand at music drama in the form of the ambitious full-length opera Faust III op. 144 (1962) whose libretto he himself took part in working out on the basis of Goethe, Joyce and Kafka. "Faust is within us all, and our chance is that we are en route. Life's termination with death as the absolute period is unacceptable" was Bentzon's offer for an ultra-short summary of the content at that time. The classical-romantic opera tradition constitutes the take-off for the form itself. On the other hand, the musical material draws on many different stylistic areas and genres - from jazz to pointillist music. The opera, which must be seen as an early example of stylistic pluralism within Danish music, was produced at the opera house in Kiel that later also billed the chamber opera The Automaton op. 328 (1974).

The most outstanding work throughout the recent decades is undoubtedly the 13-volume The Tempered Piano that combined came into existence during the course of approximately 30 years. It all began in February 1964 when Bentzon composed his 'Bach-compendium 1', The Tempered Piano op. 157, a total of 24 preludes and 24 fugues. And even though one certainly finds, in conformity with the work's title, some references to J. S. Bach's Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (notice, though, the small important omission of 'well' with Bentzon), the sources for op. 157 are both widely ramified and numerous borrowing from a.o. Stravinsky and Monk and touches of Chopin as well as Schumann, but without the distinctive bentzonian characteristics paling at any given point. There is, in fact, an astonishing overall quality to this now almost classic work, and it can today cause wonder that in its time op. 157 could give rise to reviewer phrases such as: "Is this a completely special kind of third stream? Is this a refined piece of pop-art? Or the most formidable fluxus-number seen thus far?" A good ten years later Bentzon picked up the thread again and created his The Tempered Piano II (op. 379, 1975-76), and since that time new collections were added at even intervals up until 1996. Despite the designations prelude and fugue, it is not necessarily to be expected that a polyphonic movement is hidden behind the last-mentioned, and it is a question of whether such a distinction concerning movement type makes sense at all in connection with the later collections - without this having anything to do with the musical quality, of course. Like one gigantic period, the composer recorded during the course of the 1990's all 13 volumes (in other words, a total of 624 movements!) that were published in 1998 as a box-set consisting of 15 CD's.

Apart from his stupendous activities as composer, performer, instructor and so on, Bentzon has been an industrious music author ever since the start of the 1940's with a.o. a permanent affiliation with The Danish Music Magazine (during 1943-45), and as the author of the following books: Dodecaphonic Technique (text book, 1953), 6 Monologues (music essays, 1954), Beethoven (1970), and Paul Hindemith (1997). To this must be added, since the 1960's, a stream of written debate contributions dealing with all kinds of subjects in the daily press, as well as some production of fiction and poetry, a.o. the poetry collection entitled Poets in Wagonette (1969), and the short story collection entitled The Dry World (1987). He has even presented himself at intervals as a painter in connection with various exhibitions, and it is hardly an exaggeration to say that Bentzon, from around 1960 and a couple of decades further on, was more famous than any other serious Danish composer - in the sense of being an all-embracing cultural phenomenon. The intensely media-borne and almost sensation-characterized impression made upon the public during this period has gradually given way in favour of an increasingly clearer picture of one of Danish music's true giants and, furthermore, the last existing member of the post-war era's great triumvirate within Danish music: Holmboe, Koppel and Bentzon. But, first and last, he stands alone - 'beyond category' as Ellington used to classify this type of exceptional personality.'

Bertel Krarup 1999

CD REVIEW by Rob Barnett

NIELS-VIGGO BENTZON (b.1919) Det Tempererede Klaver - The Tempered Piano (1964-1996) in 13 volumes on 15 CDs
played by the composer
ClassicO CLASSCD 210-225

An enterprise of this scope is, in terms of volume and intellectual reach, one against which the odds are stacked in this sound-byte orientated and doctor-spun world.

The magnitude of this cycle in terms of time, technique and intellect would have made it just the sort of project that would have been tackled with abandon and relish by John Ogdon.

The grocer-level dimensions will give us an initial impression. The 15 CD set gives us 624 individual pieces: 312 pairs of preludes and fugues spanning not far short of 1000 minutes of music - 17 hours or so of listening.

Some of the pieces are as short as 23 seconds; others as long as almost 5 minutes. Thus the pieces of mosaic making up this vast sequence do not individually demand a long attention span. On average each is just short of two minutes long. Taking two extreme examples: in vol 5 No 24 the fugue in f sostenuto is 4.46 long; while Vol 7's no 34 fugue in GIS is of only 23 seconds duration.

The great tapestry of these 13 volumes represents a library of ideas and inspirations presented in finished form - each a fully rounded entity.

Bentzon's imagination is fulsomely stocked and endlessly replenished. His multitudinous productivity is comparable with Villa-Lobos and Martinu with more than 650 opus numbered works. There are at least 24 symphonies (details of the latest symphonies are appended), seven piano concertos, four violin concertos, three cello concertos and so on.

His creativity has taken him into areas some will find suspect including jazz (not that unusual - think of the late Friedrich Gulda) and 'pop happenings' (think of Malcolm Arnold's collaborations with Deep Purple and of Stockhausen and Tangerine Dream). Improvisation has and continues to play a part in Bentzon's musical ferment. Bentzon is something of a media guru on music, and quite apart from being an extraordinary pianist has published novels and collections of poetry. As if this were not sufficient he has also contributed to the visual arts.

I confess that the present review is based on a random sampling of about 10% of the playing time of this colossal set. In this sense the review must be regarded as an interim effort. Perhaps in the future I can return to this pleasurable task and round it out. Equally I would be pleased to hear and read the reaction of others to this music.

Contemplating this great arched bridge of pieces is rather like considering the aeon-spanning science fiction novels of Olaf Stapledon or Balzac's Conditione Humaine. It is awesome and forbidding as a concept. To get any sort of 'handle' on the whole cycle would take at least a decade.

Why bother with this music? After all there is so much music in the world and every month yet more music tumbles out towards the listener in profuse variety.

My reason for listening is simple. I came to know just a handful of these pieces through a good friend during the early 1980s of the time. Morten Gudmund Hansen also introduced me to Danish Radio broadcast tapes of piano concerto 4 and two of the preludes and fugues were there as fillers after the concerto. I was captivated.

Bentzon's inventiveness is phenomenal. Of my sampling across these discs I found not a single time-serving piece of routine note-spinning. This, in itself, is reason enough to explore. The cost though may seem beyond your pocket even at ClassicO's special price so it may be a case of requesting the set from your local library.

The music is not difficult; equally it is not bland. It is sometimes statuesque but is more often concerned with movement. It is not academic or desiccated.

The stylistic reference points would include: Alan Bush's 24 preludes, the piano music of Ronald Stevenson, the Essays in the Modes by John Foulds and the later piano music of Frank Bridge. It tends to avoid the sensual or impressionistic - focusing on pattern and spiced rocky harmony. Some may have thoughts about Sorabji but this music is nothing like Sorabji's. Where Sorabji leans towards luscious and full-lipped sensuality Bentzon's music is leaner; more direct and the lines are presented with candid clarity which leaves no room for hiding negation behind cloudy effect.

Unusually I have appended my brief notes on some of the pieces I have sampled. Readers are asked to forgive the fanciful and enigmatic comments. They meant something to me when I was listening to the music. I hope that they will give some impression of the sound of these unprecedented pieces.

We are privileged to have the composer's own interpretations to echo down the ages. Bentzon is one of the great individualistic voices of the twentieth (and now 21st) century. His music needs to be promoted, treasured, heard and heard time and again. © Rob Barnett




1 Nocturnal planetary desolation offset by comforting Handelian serenity

7 Typically Shostakovichian idea slowed to point of decorated collapse.

12 brusque fuguing

20 rapid running themes in both hands - a real virtuoso dash - resolved in a simple splendour.

21 Almost cartoon-like speed - dashing and dark.

31 Slow ruffling of stony plumage.

39 Faintly dissonant pattern - not exciting musically though gathers self towards end.

40 adrenalin rushing nervy scherzo clanging and alive with ambiguous tonality - Bartokian.

47 Moroccan decorative - ferns and ivy hang from Moorish arches (linked perhaps with his Moorish Symphony No. 12 from 1964).

48 Wondrously soft tones conjured in reflection from piano.




3 sly melody roughened unfocussed edges - shostakovichian treatment overlapping tumbling over self

10 Urbane fragment given the shostakovich treatment

15 wraith's music box.

23 Beethovenian darkness of Eroica. Sense of doom is tangible. Very powerful

29 Brighter emotions - springy elan and resilience.

45 Sea chanty - interleaved with trotting rhythmic material resolved into one crystal high note and hooded bass chord




2 ideas set running and scampering throwing flinty sparks off the ironed highway.

5 contented - impressionistic deep study - extremely impressive - a little like Griffes' Peacock.

13 saunter through a vaguely threatening realm

14 - chirpy fragment - spinning out of control

21 - bell-dissonant clangour - piano pummelling

27 gloomy - sullen

34 snappy rhythmic idea slowly extended into higher reaches of keyboard

41 Bell-tormented skies

47 Arpeggio lightning-strikes upwards and downwards across the keyboard - pausing for breath - then resume.




1 jubilation but with a spectre in the crowd

2 brilliants - vaudeville sparks.

12 study in jumpily sweet dissonance - again the Beethoven 5 fragment

20 rubicund health of the fast music.

35 soft uncloying welcome to a beloved friend - nostalgic

41 silent film mood music - the quicker emotions - piano taking and taken a drubbing

46 rippling-patterned - pulse fast and accelerating. Bach on speed.




1 blasty oppressive

6 fairy trumpetry - ringing clear

13 on disc 5 debussian rocks drop almost bluesy

17 (only 20 seconds) Medtnerian temperament of the Skazki but with no clouding

22 Brittenesque gambol

26 Bell-like rush not far removed from Grainger's experimentation and Nancarrow's

33 Shostakovich what shall we do with drunken sailor but meanders and slips

38 Bachian fugue but flighty

42 strong fugal pattterns

48 black lava landscape ruckling





1. Discordant rush

7 Wandering through dream world of broken mirrors

10 snappy rhythmic piece

16 storm brews in rushing clouds passing in phantasmal procession across sky

26 nervy machine gun punchy rhythm derived from Beeethoven Five opening. Bartokian flourish at end

34 Bachian patterns but with Shostakovichian pepper

42 Snowy fugue - could easily have been dubbed La Neige - it drifts impressionistically.

48 awkward angular fugue overhung and tense. You can hear pages being turned.


VOL 7 55.52

1 Fouldsian clamour from essays in the modes

2 Call to faerie arms across verdant woodlands

13 impatient scherzando - stamping cross-rhythms

17 Knocking rhythm linkage to Beethoven 5 but mixed with a delightful Chopin-like falling melodic fragment.

31 Militaristic march - stern (linked perhaps with his Symphony No. 13 Military)

41 Medtner - clangorous

48 Steady pulse of a comforting night.




1 Pebble dropped into pool - Rachmaninovian accent twisted in tonality.

3 Slow pulsed - twisting and turning.

11 Slow again - a Persian nocturne

23 Laborious ascending theme - touched with victory and Medtnerian coronets - leonine theme from Medtner third piano concerto finale.

35 The flicker of snake's tongue - gusts of wind disturb the surface of a lake.

43 Abrupt marcato pattern - deep and rich

48 Fear no more the heat of the sun as set by Gerald Finzi. I wonder if Bentzon has ever heard Finzi's Grand Fantasia and Fugue for piano and orchestra.




4 Bachian slow warm idea - almost contented. pearly walking pace.

6 Rueful - in constant brisk motion - playground tune

12 sombre - sense of being lost and adrift

16 Bachian pristine notes in simplicity and warmth.

26 pebbly raindrops irregular free fall

33 Bach stumbling idea cheeky

35 Rather lovely dreamy theme put through limpid treatment.


VOL 10


1 comic music hall theme - pathos falls into pathetic

4 Distant planet - landfall in one of the lunar seas

13 Dissonant explosive - dislocated

22 Warble like Rhapsody In Blue and Summer Frank Bridge

29 Rhapsody on a Police siren's ululation.

33 Macdowell like quick music given a salty edge

34 Perky Sondheim musical touch of Poulenc


VOL 11


1 elderly gait - winter of life - almost a stumble

5 slow meandering - patterned

9 Notes falling like slow motion film of one liquid dropped into another liquid - plumes and ripples from the impact

10 Granitic bells - cheeky little carillon theme

15 slow again and with hint of the children's hymn 'All things bright and beautiful'

25 Expectant but not hopeful theme satisfyingly fugued.


VOL 12


1 A flare fired and falling in time lapse as if suspended then remembering gravity falling a little then floating etcetera

8 Bachian raindrops

14 Depression reflected in cloudy pearl notes.

15 Beethoven 5 rhythm twisted and given a seraphically victorious accent

29 Cantering spavine horse ride.

35 Purple depths and giant fronds of kelp and wrack

39 Spanish skirl - all prelude - expectant again but little hope


VOL 13


2 slow Sheep May Safely Graze melody given a wintry Gothic coating

8 Britten - alert and in readiness (28 seconds)

13 Gracious melody slowly and resourcefully spun

17 slow drip of nectar

30 Debussian bell notes

33 Simple Handelian theme tips over into a Macdowell like woodland spirit


VOL 14


4 One of Steve Race's hidden melodies a sentimental song somewhere in there.

13 Urgent but quiet. Prokofiev's Sarcasms with touch of Rachmaninov preludes

23 Reminded me of Lionel Sainsbury's Preludes.

24 A hesitant falling - unconfident - repeated to self as if to reassure.


VOL 15


3 tetchy torrent - allegro barbaro Bartók

6 Frank Bridge - late 1930s

13 tremolando study

21 bluesy stamping powerful emotionally with right hand in constant quick motion while the left hand steps the notes steadily

29 gnomic quiet character study in dark granite

36 scampering

37 Bachian clockwork winding down - the spring loses its latent energy

45 abrasive declamatory contrasts with music evocative of Holst's Betelgeuse song (Humbert Wolfe)

48 cold worlds of Finzi's song Channel Firing.




Niels Viggo Bentzon: Symfoni nr. 19 (1989)
symph orch
Uropført: 11/3-1990, Sankt Annæ Salen, Kbh.
Sjællands Symfoniorkester, dir. Kaare Hansen, solist: Per Salo
Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Niels Viggo Bentzon: Symfoni nr. 20 (1988)
symph orch
Uropført: 30/11-1990, Det Fynske Musikkonservatorium
DFM's Orkester, dir. Aksel Wellejus

Niels Viggo Bentzon: Symfoni nr. 21 (1988-1989) (Niels Ebbesen)
symph orch
Uropført: 13/10-1990, Værket, Randers
Randers Byorkester, dir. Milan Vitek

Niels Viggo Bentzon: Symfoni nr. 22
symph orch
Uropført: 3/11-1991, Esbjerg
Vestjysk Symfoniorkester, dir. Thomas Dausgaard

There are also symphonies 23 and 24 the latter dating from 1995/96.


You may also be interested in Bentzon's piano improvisations on the AV-ART label:-


Niels Viggo Bentzon is the most prolific composer in Danish history. Since his debut 55 years ago he has composed more than 600 works for orchestra and all sorts of ensembles. Being also a renowned concert pianist Bentzon naturally has composed extensively for his own instrument and - and this is what fascinates us at AV-ART - has always used improvisation both as a tool when composing as well as a means of expression when giving concerts.

This CD is the first to present Bentzon as an improviser. It has been produced in cooperation with the Danish National Radio.

Recorded 1996

Av-Art Records
Kronprinsensgade 7
DK-1114 Copenhagen K
Tel/fax +45 3393 6093


FAUST 3 op 144 (1963) opera in 3 acts 1 20'
S, Mz, 2 T, BB, 3B, mixed chorus and orchestra
Danish libretto by the composer and Kjeld Kromann
THE AUTOMATON op 328 [Automaten] (1974) 55'
2 sop, alto, ten, bar, bass + fl, a-sax, bn, vn, va, vc, tape
libretto by Michael Leinert (in German)

METHAPHOR op 58 (1949) ballet in 11 pictures and an epilogue 30' perc/pno/strings
THE COURTESAN, [Kurtisanen] op 89 (1953) 60' perc/hp/timp/cel/pno/strings
THE DOOR op 141 (1962) 60' perc/hp/pno/electronics/strings

SYMPHONY no 2 op 36 (1945) 35' perc/pno/strings
SYMPHONY no 3 op 46 (1947) 37'
2.2.2+sax.2: perc/cel/strings
*SYMPHONY no 4 op 55 (1948) 33' perc/cel/hp/strings
SYMPHONY no 5 op 61 (1950) 33' perc/cel/hp/strings
SYMPHONY no 7 op 83 (1951-52) 27' perc/cel/hp/strings
SYMPHONY no 8 op 113 (1957) 43' perc/hp/strings
SYMPHONY no 9 op 126 (1960) 33' perc/cel/strings
SYMPHONY no 13 op 181 (1965) 20' perc/strings
SYMPHONY no 16 op 509 (1987) 22' perc/cel/hp/strings
SYMPHONY no 24 op 597 (1994-95) 24' perc/hp/strings

other orchestral works
VARIAZIONI BREVE op 75 (1951) 15'
PEZZI SINFONICI op 109 (1961) 17'
CONCERTO PER ARCHI op 114 (1957) 16'
MUTATIONS op 123 (1959-60) 10' perc/cel/pno/strings
*5 MOBILES op 125 (1960) 18' perc/pno/cel/strings
SINFONIA DA CAMERA op 139 (1962) 20' perc/pno/
CHRONICLE ON RENE DESCARTES op 357 (1975-76) 27' timp/3 perc/hp/pno/strings

works for solo instrument(s) and orchestra
PIANO CONCERTO no 3 op 87 (1952) 35'
pno solo + perc/strings
PIANO CONCERTO no 4 op 96 (1954) 36'
pno solo + perc/strings
PIANO CONCERTO no 5 op 149 (1963) 25'
pno solo + perc/strings
PIANO CONCERTO no 6 op 195 (1965-66) 25'
pno solo + perc/strings
PIANO CONCERTO no 7 op 243 (1967-69) 23'
pno solo + perc/strings

VIOLIN CONCERTO no 2 op 136 (1961) 30'
vn solo + perc/hp/strings

VIOLIN CONCERTO no 4 op 374 (1975) 30'
vn solo + perc/hp/strings

VIOLA CONCERTO op 303 (1972) 30'
vla solo + perc/strings

CELLO CONCERTO op 106 (1956) 21'
vc solo +
CELLO CONCERTO no 3 op 444 (1981-82) 26'
vc solo + perc/strings

fl solo + string orchestra
FLUTE CONCERTO op 388 (1976) 15'
fl solo + perc/hp/strings

OBOE CONCERTO op 74 (1951) 18'
ob solo + string orchestra

CLARINET CONCERTO op 269 (1970-71) 29'
cl solo + perc/hp/strings

HORN CONCERTO op 445 (1981) 15'
hn solo + perc/strings

TUBA CONCERTO op 373 (1975) 20'
tu solo + perc/strings

CONCERTO for accordion and orchestra 146 (1962-63) 17'
acc solo +

CONCERTO for 2 pianos and orchestra op 482 (1985) 22'
2 pnos soli + perc/cel/hp/strings

TRIPLE CONCERTO op 94 (1953) for oboe, clarinet and bassoon soli and string orchestra 22'

SINFONIA CONCERTANTE no 2 op 390 (1976) 20'
woodwind quintet soli + ca.bcl.dbn: perc/strings

chorus and Orchestra
BONJOUR MAX ERNST op 138 (1961) 19'
mixed chorus + perc/cel/2 hp/pno/strings
Text by the composer

string(s) with piano
TRIO for violin, cello and piano op 25 (1943) 20'
CAPRICCIETTA for violin and piano op 28 (1945) 3'
SQUARE ROOT 3 for violin and piano op 35 (1946) 3'
QUINTET for 2 violins, viola, cello and piano op 196 (1966) 17'
SONATA no 2 for cello and piano op 223 (1967) 20'
SONATA no 3 for cello and piano op 268 (1971) 21'
SONATA no 6 for violin and piano op 280 (1971) 13'
SONATA for violin, viola, cello and piano op 417 (1978) 15'

wind(s) with piano
6 VARIATIONS for flute and piano op 17 (1943) 7'
2 PIECES for oboe and piano op 41 (1946) 11'
SONATA for french horn and piano op 47 (1947) 14'
SONATA for clarinet and piano op 63 (1950) 16'
SONATA for trumpet and piano op 73 (1951) 10'
SONATINA for descant recorder and harpsichord op 180 (1967) 6'
SEXTET for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and piano op 278 (1971) 20'
SONATA for bassoon and piano op 316 (1972) 11'
SONATA for soprano saxophone and piano op 478 (1985) 14'

string(s) and wind(s) with piano
3 pno/2 tp/cl/bn/bs/3 perc
MOSAIQUE MUSICALE for flute, violin, cello and piano op 54 (1948) 12'
QUINTET for flute, violin, viola, cello and piano op 130 (1960-61) 13'
SONATA FOR 12 INSTRUMENTS op 257 (1970) 12'
CHÔRO DANIENSIS for flute, clarinet, piano, guitar, percussion, cello op 548 (1990) 8'
PYRAMID for flute, clarinet, piano, guitar, percussion, cello op 572 (1993) 12'

without piano
STRING QUARTET no 3 op 72 (1951) 35'
STRING QUARTET no 6 op 124 (1960) 14'
STRING QUARTET no 8 'Dartmouth Quartet' op 228 (1968) 15'
STRING QUARTET in one Movement op 507 (1987) 9'
STRING QUARTET no 14 op 519 (1987) 17'
DUO KONZERTANTE for violin and double-bass op 531 (1989) 25'

TRIO for trumpet, horn and trombone op 82 (1952) 12'
WOODWIND QUINTET no 5 for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn op 116 (1958) 16'
QUARTET no 3 for 4 flutes op 385 (1976) 16'
SHELLS 'Konkylier' for saxophone quartet op 555 (1991) 16'

works for 2 pianos
SONATA op 51 (1948) 18'
PROPOSTAE NOVAE op 129 (1960) 19'
SONATA no 2 op 446 (1981) 12'
TEMA CON VARIAZIONI op 449 (1982) 16'

works for solo instrument
vol 1 op 157 (1964) 75'
vol 2 op 379 (1975-56) 78'
vol 3 op 400 (1976-77) 75'
vol 4 op 409 (1978) 75'
vol 5 op 428 (1978-80) 72'
vol 6 op 470 (1985) 68'
vol 7 op 530 (1989) 60'
vol 8 op 532 (1989) 99'
vol 9 op 541 (1989) 68'
vol 10 op 542 (1990) 65'
vol 11 op 546 (1990) 87'
vol 12 op 554 (1991) 68'
vol 13 op 633 (1996) 95'

other works for piano solo
7 SMALL PIANO PIECES op 3 (1939) 5'
TOCCATA op 10 (1941) 7'
PASSACAGLIA op 31 (1944) 12'
PARTITA op 38 (1945) 21'
SONATA no 2 op 42 (1946) 14'
SONATA no 3 op 44 (1946) 16'
DANCE PIECES op 45 (1946) 12'
CONCERT ETUDES op 48 (1947) 15'
SONATA no 4 op 57 (1948-49) 22'
WOODCUTS op 65 (1950) 18'
SONATA no 5 op 77 (1951) 19'
SONATA no 6 op 90 (1952) 18'
SONATA no 7 op 121 (1959) 15'
15 2-PART INVENTIONS op 159 (1964) 15'
15 3-PART INVENTIONS op 160 (1965) 17'
2 FREDERIKSBERG SUITES op 173-174 (1965) each 16'
SONATA no 8 op 193 (1965) 20'
SONATA no 9 op 194 (1965) 16'
PAGANINI VARIATIONS op 241 (1968) 12'
'HOFFMAN' SONATA op 248 (1969) 17'
SONATA no 18 op 459 (1983) 18'
SONATA no 20 op 461 (1984) 14'
FOREST PIECES op 495 (1986) 10'

organ solo
VARIATIONS op 103 (1955) 19'
21 PRELUDES op 458 (1983) 21'
QUASI UNA PASSACAGLIA op 492 (1986) 14'

string instrument solo
STUDY for double bass solo op 34 (1945) 3'
SONATA for cello solo op 110 (1956) 19'
3 SONATAS AND PARTITAS for violin solo op 330 (1973) 45'
VARIATIONS on 'The Volga Boat-men' for cello solo op 354 (1974) 21'
16 ETUDES for cello solo op 464 (1984) 18'
STRUMENTA DIABOLICO op. 664 for guitar solo (1999) 7'

wind instrument solo
VARIATIONS for flute op 93 (1953) 18'

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Rob Barnett

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