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‘Early Morn’ Danish music for guitar
Per NORGARD (b. 1932)

Five Preludes and a Serenade, Suite for Guitar (1998) [12:10]

Dawning [1:58]
Listening [0:56]
Still Gentle from Sleep [2:28]
Waking up [0:58]
Scherzo depressivo (The Old Grind) [1:02]
Trio I Ordinary Morning Song [0:50]
Trio II Morning Song with a Bang [1:02]
Scherzo de capo [1:05]
Serenade [1:51]
The Queen of Hearts, for Solo Guitar with Obbligato Cello* (1995)
(from the cycle of Suites ‘Tales from a Hand’) [7:39]
Courtly Dance [1:56]
Street-dance (with four variations) [6:10]
Flemming WEIS (1898-1981)

Aspects, for Solo Guitar (1975) [7:39]
The Gentle [2:30]
The Merry [1:28]
The Gloomy [3:41]
Bent LORENTZEN (b. 1935)

Umbra, for Solo Guitar (1973, rev. 1987) [8:16]
John FRANDSEN (b. 1956)

Nature Morte, Five Miniatures for Guitar (1986) [12:38]
Perpetuum Mobile [2:13]
Interlude [2:17]
Arabesque [2:30]
Cadence [2:38]
Nocturne [3:00]
Poul RUDERS (b. 1949)

Jargon, for Solo Guitar (1973) [13:28]
Axel BORUP-JORGENSEN (b. 1924)

Praeambula Op. 72 (1974-76) [11:24]
Guitar: Erling Moldrup
Cello: Morten Zeuthen*
Norgard: Performed August 2000 in Torpen Kapel, Humlebaek, Denmark.
Weis, Lorentzen, Frandsen, Ruders and Borup-Jorgensen: Performed 1988-89 in the Concert Hall, Royal Academy of Music, Arhus, Denmark
DANACORD DACOCD 594 [65.00?]

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 Per Norgard.

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 him.

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.

Michael Cookson

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