Danacord have released a disc containing the solo acoustic
classical guitar music of contemporary Danish composers of which group
only Flemming Weis is no longer alive. None of the composers here actually
play the guitar but there again neither did the Joaqín Rodrigo
who achieved world-wide fame with the Concierto de Aranjuez.
This anthology is entitled ‘Early Morn’ which is the name of the opening
piece on the disc and the first of two compositions from the pen of
Influential and frequently recorded and performed in
recent times Norgard has been the pack leader in Danish music for several
years. Although in nine short movements which can be played independently,
the five preludes and serenade which comprise ‘Early Morn’ are, according
to the composer, a series of "small, related pieces whose sequence
of states creates a unified progression towards this serenade."
The programme behind ‘Early Morn’ relates to the physical and emotional
states experienced in a typical morning. ‘Early Morn’ is the easy accessible
side of Norgard who here displays his melodic talents in a refreshing
yet considered manner, without the necessity for extreme technical affects.
Curiously tracks 5 and 8 use a recurring theme which sounds like the
first five notes of the lyrics ‘There may be trouble ahead’ from the
popular Irving Berlin song ‘Let’s face the music and dance’. This may
be purely coincidental as Norgard has explained that all his melodies
are, as far as he knows, his own, apart from one exception which is
a song by Buxheuil that his father used to sing.
Norgard’s two movement composition ‘Queen of Hearts’,
includes a part for obbligato cello, the role of which the soloist
Erling Moldrup describes as, "it is only a question of ‘waiting
on’, not of competing for attention." Showing various sides of
the Queen of Hearts the work forms the second of a series of four suites
for guitar entitled ‘Tales from a Hand’. These relate to aspects of
the four card suites: spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds. The work is
less melodic in character than the later composition ‘Early Morn’, and
not as accessible. However with extra concentration from the listener
it makes rewarding listening, leaving me wanting to hear the complete
set of ‘Tales from a Hand’.
The only composer on this disc who is from an earlier
generation is Flemming Weis having been born in the 19th
century. Influenced by the Germanic tradition and the French neo-classical
school it is acknowledged that echoes of his contemporary Carl Nielsen
are usually present in his works. ‘Aspect’ was his first composition
for guitar and he was 78 when he wrote it. The work is divided into
three movements which can be interpreted as representing three stages
of life: childhood, youth and adulthood and finally old age. This is
an appealing and satisfying short composition, extremely accomplished
and richly affective in its use of colour.
Bent Lorentzen originally wrote his three movement
work ‘Umbra’ using a strict notation. As it was considered to be virtually
unplayable he rewrote the piece in the form that we hear on this release.
With regard to the structure of ‘Umbra’ the composer has explained that,
"the tonal colours (tonal aspects) are consistently arranged in
pairs of opposites like light and shadow." ‘Umbra’ makes considerable
technical demands on the soloist with use of harmonies, finger slaps,
slap pizzicato, buzzing, extreme vibrato, pull-offs, sul ponticello
and glissandi. Putting the intriguing technical wizardry aside, the
work seems lacking in substance and emotional depth.
John Frandsen feels that the guitar is heard to its
best advantage predominately by composing for, "a quiet and intimate
expression" and is especially suited to the miniature forms. The
composer explains that in each of the five movements of ‘Nature Morte’,
which can be performed independently, he "cultivates one motivic
or one technical idea." Frandsen has provided here a most satisfying
and compelling composition as the contrasting miniature movements work
extremely well and there is no tendency towards technical effect for
its own sake.
As an eclectic composer, Paul Ruders has demonstrated
his ability to write music which can vary from large-scale orchestral
with challenging atonalities to a medieval form of minimalism. The soloist
Erling Moldrup in his booklet notes explains that Ruder’s ‘Jargon’ is
constructed of quotations from music from our musical heritage, "clearly
recognisable by everyone. This includes folk, popular, march, jazz and
big band music and even, for example, the melody of the bells of Big
Ben." Despite several hearings of the work I was unable to clearly
detect any of the familiar musical styles described by Moldrup. However
‘Jargon’ is an accessible work of contrasting moods and colours, making
no atonal challenges nor other hair-raising musical onslaughts on the
listener. Ruders shows himself to be an expert craftsman with a distinctive
voice in this substantial single movement work.
Inspired by the Second Viennese School, Borup-Jorgensen
is one of the few contemporary Danish composers to have remained generally
faithful to the atonal and avant-garde doctrine. This clearly shows
in the substantial composition ‘Praeambula’. Erling Moldrup in the notes
describes the work as having "a hint of a lyrical sound which one
could perhaps call ‘Scandinavian’ in nature." Each to their own,
but my imagination failed to make the same identification as Moldrup
and despite the fascinating sounds from the guitar my concentration
waned and I lost interest in the proceedings. At points 1:11-1:28 and
8:20-8:57 (track 22) I could not resist thinking that if the various
numbers of a telephone key pad sounded like the guitar notes being played
then this music at times was reminiscent of making a long call.
The eminent soloist Erling Moldrup, who also writes
the booklet notes, is a Professor of Guitar at the Royal Academy of
Music, at Arhus, an active recording artist in a wide range of guitar
repertoire and has performed in numerous countries throughout the world.
He has collaborated with many leading contemporary composers both in
his native Denmark and abroad and has had several works dedicated to
Moldrup’s playing on this Danacord release is as impeccable
as his credentials, combining sensitive phrasing and crystal clear articulation
displaying his natural virtuosity throughout. The guitar is closely
‘miked’ within a true and first class acoustic. These are persuasive
accounts of what are for the most part accessible and always fascinating
contemporary guitar works from six Danish composers.