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Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
'The Secret Mass' is the title...far too good to keep it to yourself
Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3
14 April 2018
BBC Radio 3
This programme - which has been running since 1949 - is a comprehensive three-hour weekly round-up of new recordings and releases, reviews and features.
The Record Review disc of the week.
“The Danish National Vocal Ensemble, the professional choir of Danish Radio, effortlessly encompassing its demands and making it an intimate musical and spiritual experience in this new recording conducted by Marcus Creed.
I'd buy it just for the mass but you also get Martin's 'Songs of Ariel' and his Czech contemporary Bohuslav Martinu's 'Four Songs of the Virgin Mary'. And the recording ends with a beautifully-sung performance of Martinu's cantata 'Romance from the Dandelions'. The recording is as clearly focussed and well-balanced as the performances. 'The Secret Mass' is the title...far too good to keep it to yourself...". 
Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
... beautiful music, lovingly performed ...
Geoff Pearce, Sydney, Australia
13 April 2018
Exemplary Performances
Martin and Martinů
choral music -
pleases 

GEOFF PEARCE
'... beautiful music, lovingly performed ...'
This disc contains some breathtaking music by two of my favourite twentieth century composersFrank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů. The only piece familiar to me here is Martinů's Romance from the Dandelions.
The first work, Frank Martin's Mass for two four part choirs, was written as early as 1922, but the composer withheld it for forty years, partly because of self criticism, and partly because Martin believed that this work was a personal relationship between himself and God and that his expression of religious feeling was essentially a private affair. I am pleased that he eventually allowed it to be performed, because it is one of the most profoundly beautiful works I have ever heard.
The opening Kyrie reminds one of plainsong. As the movement, unfolds the prayer for the Lord and for Christ to have mercy becomes more intense and a little anguished. A brighter more hopeful section then follows.
The Gloria praises God's greatness, and is quite mystical, building tension and then relaxing it beautifully in a truly satisfying way. To me, the following intricate polyphonic section gives a feeling of heightened ecstasy. Towards the close of the movement, there is a quiet and reflective, almost sorrowful section which reminds us of Jesus' sacrifice for all of us. A livelier, almost jubilant section closes the movement.
The Credo closely follows the words, at times full of light, and at others transcendental. Much of the music is very intimate, but there are considerable mood changes depending on the text.
The Sanctus starts quietly and gradually grows in strength, complexity and ecstasy, climaxing at the 'Hosanna in Excelsis' and then moving directly into the 'Benedictus'. At first this starts quietly and then builds quite quickly. The ecstatic mood remains right until the end of this movement.
For me, the Agnus Dei is the greatest movement in this work. One choir sings the foundation whilst the other sings the melodic lines, and they draw together at the end. There is a calmness in this music which unwinds the listener from the pure ecstasy of the previous two movements. The 'Dona Nobis Pacem' which ends this movement and the mass is very emotionally relaxing and satisfying.
Martinů's 'Four Songs of the Virgin Mary' were written in 1934.
The first, 'The Annunciation', reminds one of being in a small church, with Mary receiving the message of God with some confusion and later acceptance.
In the second song, Mary dreams that she is in paradise, but in the third, 'Our Lady's Breakfast', the mood is rather lighter, with baby Jesus helping his mother catch fish for breakfast.
The last song, 'The Virgin Mary's Picture', tells how the 'Black Madonna' icon, which hangs in the Polish town of Czstochowa, is based on the Virgin Mary's face. It can bring about miracles, but not always of a benign nature, such as turning a highwayman to stone when he tries to destroy the picture.
Songs of Ariel is a later work of Frank Martin, composed in 1950, and his only other a cappella work. They set three songs from Shakespeare's The Tempest sung by Ariel, and two additional songs drawn from some of Ariel's text.
'Come unto these yellow sands' is mystical, mysterious and a little restless. In 'Full fathom five' a baritone soloist emerges from the texture. One senses the ocean depths, the gentle lapping of the waves and the ringing of bells.
In the bright and cheerful 'Before you can say "come and go"', Ariel tells how swiftly he obeys his master.
Ariel casts a spell on three of Prospero's enemies in 'You are three men of sin'. There is a powerful alto solo, and the choral writing here is quite virtuosic and at times dramatic.
'Where the bee sucks', the last song, very short, is full of florid writing in the upper voices. Ariel says that he is so tiny that he can hide in a cowslip.
Finally, Martinů's Romance from the Dandelions tells the story of a young lovesick girl awaiting her absent soldier boyfriend, who had been sent off to war. A setting of a poem sent to Martinů by a poet friend, Miloslav Bures, it is one of a set of four cantatas that went under the title Here Is My Home. The narration is carried out by the soprano and tenor soloists, and the choir sings wordless interludes, and at times, with finger tapping, simulates the sound of a drum. On this recording a real military drum is used. This beautiful work, filled with longing and wistfulness at times, reflecting Martinů's homesickness, was written in the last few years of the composer's life, when he was living in exile in Switzerland. There is real restraint here, and the music is quite surreal. The purity of the soprano soloist, Klaudia Kinon, helps to beautify this lovely work.

 
The performances of these works are exemplary, and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, the soloists drawn from the ensemble and Marcus Creed's polished direction all go together to make this an outstanding musical experience. This beautiful music, lovingly performed, should please even the most jaded listener.
Geoff Pearce, Sydney, Australia

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
, "this disc become a must-own for anyone fond of the medium of a capella chorus
David DeBoor, Fanfare
02 April 2018
The present CD draws four a capella choral works together from two of the early-to-mid 20th-century’s most significant composers into one pleasing package. Each composer contributes one sacred and one secular work, and beyond the similarity of their names (albeit, not their nationalities, as Frank Martin was Swiss and Bohuslav Martinů was Czech), they shared 1890 as a common year of birth. The thing that immediately struck me as I began listening to the first work, Martin’s Mass for Two Four-Part Choirs, was the purity of sound and accuracy of intonation produced by the Danish National Vocal Ensemble under its conductor Marcus Creed, who has his ensemble largely eschew vibrato. The resulting blend of the group is admirable, with no individual voices sticking out from the texture. The group’s purity of vocal production is especially well-suited to Martin’s backward-looking Mass, which includes many chant-like melodic lines intertwined in contrapuntal fashion, and undergirded by a modal harmonic construction. Martin also makes considerable use of pedal point notes which seem to amplify the timeless nature of the sacred texts. His exquisite and ethereal harmonies add to the heavenly effect, and despite the eight different choral parts, the textures remain lucid at all times.
Martin was born into a Reformed Protestant home (his father was an ordained minister), but of course numerous Protestant composers (including the Lutheran Bach) have set the mass to music. The Swiss master kept this work to himself for more than 40 years, as a private expression of love and devotion to God. It might have remained in a drawer until the composer’s death but for the fact that German choral conductor Franz Bunnert somehow saw the score, and pestered Martin until he allowed him to premiere it in 1963. To state that a composer cloistering any mature work he has written is a rarity would be rather much an understatement, but it should be remembered that Martin did not consider himself a serious professional composer until he was well into his 50s.
                      Martin’s other work herein is his Songs of Ariel, the only other a capella work in his oeuvre. The song texts are drawn from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and while remaining within the parameters of tonality, its rhythms, harmonies, and the level of drama are all increased in complexity and modernity. Some of these songs, such as “Where the bee sucks, there suck I,” have been set by countless composers, but in Martin’s setting, one can almost hear the small creatures flitting about. In others such as “Before you can say ‘Come and go’,” Martin himself selected the text from Shakespeare’s play to set. The piece in any case is a delight from beginning to end.
                      The Four Songs of the Virgin Mary by Bohuslav Martinů are as simple and direct in their presentation as the young woman depicted in the Scriptures is portrayed. The composer wrote this work after he had received a grant to travel to Paris, and with him, and he brought along a number of texts by his Czech compatriots. The music well follows the texts, for example in the Annunciation, where the Virgin is told by the angel of her soon-to-come bearing of the Messiah, the music reflects Mary’s confusion about how such a thing could happen to a virgin, followed by a quiet close reflecting her faithful acceptance of the angel’s message. Not all of the four songs have something to do with Christian tradition, however: the third of them is entitled “Our Lady’s Breakfast,” and is a bizarre comical ballad about the newly born Jesus helping his mother catch fish for her morning meal. 
                      Martinů’s Romance from the Dandelions closes the concert, and is the longest single movement of any heard (being of greater duration than all four of his Songs of the Virgin Mary). The composer, who was an avid anti-Nazi, had had to flee from France when the Nazis invaded that country in 1940. Arriving in the US, Martinů became homesick for his native Czechoslovakia, although he was never to see his homeland again. This extended choral work was a result of that longing for his native country, and tells the story of a Czech village girl awaiting the return of her beloved soldier sweetheart, who has gone off into the battlefield. The text was written by Miloslav Bureš, a childhood friend of the composer. Its several sections juxtapose ensemble songs with numerous soprano solos by the girl who has waited seven years for her beloved to return. In one of them she exclaims, “Our love should have served us better than this!” The significance of the dandelions of the title is that their initial gold color portrays the wedding rings that the girl is hoping will commence, but when they mature and turn white, their seeds are blown off into the world to make a single ring for the soldier who is out there somewhere. The cantata ends with the story being presented from the soldier’s point of view, but we never learn whether the couple was ever reunited. Martinů’s music is nevertheless optimistic in tone, as well as possessing the longing quality one would expect.
                      The splendid choral artistry of Creed (who lives up to his name by including a Credo in the collection) and his Danish singers by itself would be worth the price of admission here, but given the heart-wrenchingly beautiful music, this disc become a must-own for anyone fond of the medium of a capella chorus
David DeBoor, Fanfare

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
. The clarity of the singers is truly the hallmark of this production
Stuart Millson is QR’s classical music editor. Endnotes, April 2018
01 April 2018
Endnotes UK
In this edition: 20th-century choral music by Sir Arthur Bliss, Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinu; piano concertos by Grieg and Delius, reviewed by STUART MILLSON
Two superbly-produced CDs of choral music have recently appeared – one, a magnificent recording and performance of Sir Arthur Bliss’s The Beatitudes, a large-scale and much-overlooked piece, originally written for the 1962 consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral; the other, a more introspective selection of music for voices by the Swiss composer, Frank Martin, and the Czech, Bohuslav Martinu.
On a smaller scale and composed in 1922, the Mass for two four-part choirs by Frank Martin, is given a truly impeccable interpretation (on the OUR label – a name connected to Naxos) by the Danish National Vocal Ensemble – the elite choral group of Denmark’s broadcasting service. The DR Vokal Ensemble performs under the direction of Marcus Creed, former Professor of Choral Conducting at the Hochschule for Music, Cologne and was recorded in the studios of Danish radio. The clarity of the singers is truly the hallmark of this production: their voices bringing a crystal clarity – bell-like and pingingly on the note – to Martin’s surprisingly classical, even English-sounding Mass. One is reminded in places of Vaughan Williams’s Mass. The opening Kyrie echoes all the true sacred feeling of this music of affirmation and is evocative of J.S. Bach, a composer who was for Martin a foundation stone in culture. Also inspired by Shakespeare, Martin evokes the elemental magic and mystery of The Tempest, and gives new life to the Songs of Ariel. Baritone Lauritz Jakob Thomsen takes us to that ‘Full Fathom Five’ – and a true air of the supernatural pervades the sequence of five songs.
The Danish vocalists also do full justice to the Four Songs of the Virgin Mary by Bohuslav Martinu, a composer who created a unique sound-world.
Stuart Millson is QR’s classical music editor. Endnotes, April 2018

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
There is such beauty here, a real celebration of the human voice, the whole splendidly recorded by Mikkel Nymand.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare
30 March 2018
 
A stunning idea to combine choral music of the Swiss composer Frank Martin and the Czech Bohuslav Martinů on one disc. By far the major work is Martin’s Mass for Double Chorus, written in 1922 but withheld (kept secret) for some 40 plus years, its first performance taking place in 1963; the title of the present release is The Secret Mass. The sense of private communion with God, perhaps reflecting Martin’s Calvinism, is pronounced throughout. Martin splits the choir into two (a double choir of two x SATB). This performance by the Danish National Vocal Ensemble is remarkable in its breadth of expression, from the lightness of the “Cum sancto spiritus” in the “Gloria” to the chordal depth of the opening of the “Credo.” The weight of emotion in the “Agnus Dei” is exceptional. The 22 singers of an augmented The Sixteen with Harry Christophers on Coro is an ideal alternative if one seeks an all-Martin disc (the Songs of Ariel are there, too), while fans of Robert Shaw and his Festival Singers will not hesitate over on Telarc (a multi-composer disc entitled Evocation of the Spirit). One should not omit the splendid Chandos SACD conducted by Charles Bruffy, also, which intriguingly couples Martin’s Mass for Double Chorus with music by Mäntyjärvi, Ticheli and Clausen. An embarrassment of riches, perhaps; and who could seriously want it any other way?
The Four Songs of the Virgin Mary by Martinů represent one of ten sets of choral songs; this one dates from 1934 and is in some ways complementary to his church opera The Miracles of the Virgin Mary of the same year. The texts are a mix of the serious and the comic (the infant Jesus helps Mary catch fish for breakfast in the third). The performances here are beautifully managed, not least in the light textures of the final “The Virgin Mary’s Picture,” on the Black Madonna painting held at Czstochowa. An invaluable supplement to this, if one is intent on exploring Martinů’s choral works, is the Supraphon disc of madrigals with the vocal group Martinů Voices under Lucáš Vasilek.
The Songs of Ariel of 1950 is Frank Martin’s only other choral work, apart from the Mass, for a cappella chorus, but they are of course related to his opera based on The Tempest, Der Sturm (1955). Alto Hanna-Maria Strand creates an intense, imposing atmosphere in her solo for “You are three men of sin,” but it is the sheer joy of the end of the final song, “Where the bee sucks, there suck I,” that is remarkable.
Finally, Romance of the Dandelions. This recording uses a military drum instead of an imitation of one via finger-drumming, and convincingly so. The text is by the composer’s childhood friend Miloslav Bureš and is one of four cantatas for choir with various instruments by Martinů. The solo soprano contributions are beautifully taken by Klaudia Kidon, who has impeccable Czech diction. The choir itself provides a fine wordless backdrop to Kidon. The text is a lament for a lover who has gone to war; the yellow dandelions remind his pining sweetheart of gold for rings; eventually the seeds scatter on the wind to make, possibly, a ring for the absent soldier, wherever he is. The Danish performance is fragilely beautiful; however, there seems more depth of emotion, and more truth to Martinů, perhaps, to the Supraphon performance, again conducted by Lucáš Vasilek, this time with the Prague Philharmonic Choir (and with Patrik Lavrinčík providing “drumming on chair”) on a disc of all four cantatas.
None of which is to detract from the excellence of the present release. There is such beauty here, a real celebration of the human voice, the whole splendidly recorded by Mikkel Nymand. 
Colin Clarke, Fanfare

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
offering a reminder that 20th-century music of this ilk can be quite as immediately appealing as that of earlier eras
Barry Brenesal, March © 2018 Classical CD Choice
30 March 2018
The works on this highly unusual disc—Frank Martin: Mass for two Four-part Choirs; Bohuslav Martinů: Four Songs of the Virgin Mary; Frank Martin: Songs of Ariel; Bohuslav Martinů: Romance from the Dandelions—are granted the best possible advocacy, offering a reminder that 20th-century music of this ilk can be quite as immediately appealing as that of earlier eras. The pieces here by Frank Martin are perhaps more forbidding, but are given readings of such strength that there is an instant communication with the adventurous listener. The Grammy-Nominated, ECHO Award-winning Danish National Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Marcus Creed have a particular affinity for the music of Martinů with its traces of impressionism and Stravinskian neoclassicism along with the love of folklore he shared with his countryman, Leoš Janáček. 
Barry Brenesal, March © 2018 Classical CD Choice

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
Danish composer Borup-Jørgensen was a genuine talent, a likeable maverick with an acute ear”
Graham Rickson, theartsdisk.com
24 March 2018
“Danish composer Borup-Jørgensen was a genuine talent, a likeable maverick with an acute ear”
Axel Borup-Jørgensen: Marin Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Sôndergård (OUR Recordings)
The physical effort involved in composing Marin was a huge strain on the Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012). This ear-stretching musical seascape was made possible by its creator winning a prize in the mid-1960s, the reward including a commission for a large orchestral piece to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in 1970. Borup-Jørgensen delivered, in spades: a shaggy monsterpiece with the orchestral strings divided into 55 parts, using something referred to, mysteriously, as "optical notation". Making a fair copy took the composer over 1000 hours, the process entertainingly described by his daughter in the booklet. A young Herbert Blomstedt conducted the premiere, following a score with pages so enormous that an ingenious means of turning them soundlessly had to be devised. You couldn't make it up. Still, this handsomely recorded new performance of Marin with the same orchestra under Thomas Søndergård is a triumph. It sounds like nothing else you'll have heard, 19 minutes of deep rumblings, dissonant note clusters and pregnant silences. Importantly, it does really suggest a vast, swelling ocean. We’re not a million miles away from the stormier bits of Debussy’s La Mer or Sibelius's Oceanides. The recording comes with an accompanying DVD including Morten Bartholdy’s CGI animated realisation of Marin, an entertainingly crazed vision of an undersea world, its denizens based on the composer's own drawings. I listened to the work before watching the film and was anticipating something darker and murkier: the crystalline brightness of the artwork came as a surprise. Still good to have though, as is the bonus documentary about Borup-Jørgensen. Which suggests that he was a genuine talent, a likeable maverick with an acute ear, able to analyse a work by Webern using graphics rather than words. It's touching to see him recalled so fondly by fellow musicians.
Marin’s vastness seems to have been a blip, Borup-Jørgensen generally preferring to write on a smaller scale. The couplings are fascinating: 1989’s Für Cembalo und Orgel (with harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani) is bewilderingly brilliant, as are two pieces for solo recorder. The second of them, Pergolato, was the composer’s last work, an elegant, melodic farewell. The disc closes with Coast of Sirens, soprano Bodil Gümes’ multitracked vocals heard against a shimmering chamber backdrop. The whole package is handsomely designed and well-annotated: a treat, in other words. What's stopping you?
Graham Rickson, theartsdisk.com

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
Classical CD Choice
Barry Brenesal, Classical CD Choice
13 March 2018
The works on this highly unusual disc—Frank Martin: Mass for two Four-part Choirs; Bohuslav Martinů: Four Songs of the Virgin Mary; Frank Martin: Songs of Ariel; Bohuslav Martinů: Romance from the Dandelions—are granted the best possible advocacy, offering a reminder that 20th-century music of this ilk can be quite as immediately appealing as that of earlier eras. The pieces here by Frank Martin are perhaps more forbidding, but are given readings of such strength that there is an instant communication with the adventurous listener. The Grammy-Nominated, ECHO Award-winning Danish National Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Marcus Creed have a particular affinity for the music of Martinů with its traces of impressionism and Stravinskian neoclassicism along with the love of folklore he shared with his countryman, Leoš Janáček
Barry Brenesal, Classical CD Choice

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
A challenging issue, for sure; a major addition to the catalog of music by this composer
Robert Benson, Classical CD Review.com
18 Januaray 2018

Danish-born composer Axel Borup-Jorgensen (1924-2012) was a prolific composer on the Nordic musical scene. He was respected during his time, and recognized as a leader in the world of new music. He wrote for orchestra, chamber ensembles and solo instruments, and his scores are complex. He had his own sound world, and he had a passionate almost mystical regard for nature. Much of his music is subdued, almost silent. The SACD in this set contains Marin, Op.60, a 19 minute work considered to be his masterpiece. This is played by the Danish National Symphony directed by Thomas Sondegard. Then we hear the 13=minute Music for Percussion and Viola (Tim Fredenksen/Percurama Percussion Ensemble), Für Cembalo and Organ, Op. 133 (Mahan Esfahani/ Jens,. E. Christiansen), Nachtstück, Op. 118. (Elisabet Selin, recorder), Winter Pieces, Op. 30b (Erik K Kaltoft, piano), Pergolato, Op. 183 *(Michala Petri, recorder), and Coast of Sirens, Op. 100 for flute, clarinet, violin, guitar, cello, piano, percussion and "multi voice tape."with the Arhus Sinfonietta conducted by Soren Kinch Hansen. I imagine most listeners (including myself) will find little of interest in this music. The DVD features a fantasy animation of Marin created by Lückow Film and an international team of animators directed by Morten Bartholdy.The film represents symbols of the forces in the human subconscious, without a narrative, to be interpreted by the viewer. AXEL is a documentary about the composer's life and music and includes interviews and performances by some of the artists heard on the CD. A challenging issue, for sure; a major addition to the catalog of music by this composer.'

Robert Benson, Classical CD Review.com

Michala Petri, recorder
Jean Thorel, conductor
A Pacifying Weapon [LP]
Sean Hickey
Hickey´s capitalizes on the icy edge of his percussion-heavy wind band by channeling Shostakovich-like brutality against which the recorder is the picture of whimsical innocence.
Andrew Mellor, Gramophone, UK
04 February 2018
LP releases
Andrew Mellor on a handful of vinyl issues from Northern Europe specially conceived for the medium
Sean Hickey´s recorder concerto A Pacifying Weapon stands in directly timbral contrast to pretty much everything discussed. But its inclusion on the first LP release from its label reminds us that the presence achieved by analogue sound is just as transformative for hard-edged shouts and scrapes as it is for hand-holding hums and whispers. As the dichotomy of its title suggest, this is a piece in which swards are beat into ploughshares but with accomplished sleight of hands.
Hickey´s capitalizes on the icy edge of his percussion-heavy wind band by channeling Shostakovich-like brutality against which the recorder is the picture of whimsical innocence. But it is the Fife and Drums of battle that end up consoling Michala Petri´s adroit flutters, making way for her final dialogue with an exotic but subtly-deployed battery of percussion. It is filigree, agile music suited to low-fi analogue sound? This is the only record of the six that comes with a download card, Hicheys piece won´t outstay its welcome should you wish to spend some time arguing the toss. 
Andrew Mellor, Gramophone, UK

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
hinaus viel Hörenwertes dieses hochinteressanten Komponisten zu entdecken gibt
Juan Martin Kock, Neue Musikzeitung, Seite 17
04 February 2018
Neue Musikzeitung (Germany)
Borup-Jørgensen: Marin, OUR Recordings (DVD und SACD)
Nach dem orchestralen Hauptwerk von Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012) benannt, enthält diese mit ausführlichem Booklet schön ausgestattete Box zweierlei: Eine SACD mit einer repräsentativen Werkauswahl sowie eine DVD mit einem animierten Musikfilm zu “Marin” und einem vierzigminutigen Portrait des dänischen Komponisten. Letzteres ist einigermassen information, aber leider is Borup-Jørgensen nicht im Bewegtbild zu zehen. Der Musikfilm zu ”Marin” begeht glüchlicherweise nicht den Fehler, den Werktitel allzu ernst zu nehmen, denn dieses ”Seestück” ist keine naturalistische Meeresbetrachtung, sondern eine hochdifferenzierte Orchesterklangsstudie. Stattdessem finden wir uns in einer bizarren, von schwebenden Pappmaaché-menschen bevölkerten Vulkanlandschaft wieder, zu von Zeichnungen des komponisten inspiriert ist. Das wirkt nicht unbedingt zwingend, ist aber durchaus suggestiv. Wer das faszinierende Werk nur hören will, kann zu dem Danish National Symphony Orchestra unter Thomas Søndergård brilliant gespielen und in überragender Klangtechnik aufgenommen SACD greifen, auf der es darüber hinaus viel Hörenwertes dieses hochinteressanten Komponisten zu entdecken gibt. 
Juan Martin Kock, Neue Musikzeitung, Seite 17

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
I’m sure Axel would be pleased to be placed as he is now among the masters of Danish composers.
Perkustooth, Newmusicbuff.wordpress.com
29 January 2018
I have made no secret of my passion for the music which has been coming out of the Scandinavian portion of our planet.  My knowledge of these musical traditions is mostly limited to the twentieth century up to the present but what a horn of plenty there is to be had.  There are so many composers that it is forgivable if one of them fails to get worldwide attention and acclaim during their lifetime.  Or is it?
Well if sins of omission that have been committed all can now be forgiven and the memory of Axel Borup-Jørgenson (1924-2012) is likely guaranteed to remain solidly in the history of music of the twentieth century.  The Danes take their music very seriously it seems (check out the You Tube Channel for the Danish National Symphony Orchestra if you don’t believe me) and producer Lars Hannibal and his crew have labored tirelessly to bring this formerly obscure master most deservingly to light in this DVD/CD combo pack featuring some of his finest works.
This truly major release contains a DVD with a gorgeous animated feature synced to the late composer’s swan song big orchestral piece, Marin op. 60 (1963-70) a really beautifully produced documentary (“Axel”) on the composer featuring some of his fellow composers including, Finn Savery, Pelle Gudmunsen-Holmgreen, Bent Sørensen, Sunleif Rasmussen, Per Nørgard, Gert Mortensen, Ib Nørholm, Michala Petri, and producer Lars Hannibal along with family and other musicians and producers.
The animated feature looks like one of the finer entries one might find on Vimeo.  The animation was done by Lùckow Film and works well with the music.  The biographical feature does a spectacular job of placing the composer in context with his Nordic contemporaries and with contemporary music in general.  The people interviewed give about as definitive a description of the man’s work as can be done in a film biography and the intervening or connecting scenes bespeak a high level concept of cinematography that makes this film both compelling and a delight for the eyes as well as the mind.  The concept of the composer’s use of silence as a compositional tool seems to be reflected in these transitional scenes.
The CD consists of seven carefully selected pieces on seven tracks.  The disc opens with the big orchestra piece which was heard behind the animation on the DVD, Marin Op. 60 (1963-70) followed by Music for Percussion and Viola Op. 18 (1955-56), For Cembalo and Orgel Op. 133 (1989), Nachtstuck Op. 181 (1987) (played here by the composer’s daughter, Elisabeth Selin), Winter Pieces Op. 30b (1959) for piano, Pergolato Op. 182 (2011) for treble recorder, and Coast of Sirens Op. 100 (1980-85) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, guitar, piano, percussion, and multivoice tape.  This is truly a balanced portrait with examples of orchestral, solo instrument, keyboard, chamber and electroacoustic works from 1959-2011, a more than fair sampling of the composer’s output both by genre and by time.
The music seems to move between post-romantic tonality and expressionistic experiments such as one hears in the music of Gyorgy Ligeti.  The music is evocative and very listenable especially if one avails one’s self of the introductory film.  It certainly seemed to tune this reviewer’s ears properly.  It is helped as well by some very fine recordings that capture the subtlety of the composer’s work.
Lars Hannibal is clearly the guiding hand in this project but his genius (he is a fine guitarist as well as a producer) is his ability to engage all these fine musicians, artists, producers, and family in what is one of the most loving portraits this writer has ever seen.  Now that is the way to blast someone out of obscurity forever.
And this is but one entry in a larger project to record the composer’s complete output.  Two previous releases were reviewed on this blog and, presumably there are more to come.  But in the meantime there is much to savor here and one hopes that this will introduce this music into the general repertoire.  I’m sure Axel would be pleased to be placed as he is now among the masters of Danish composers.
Perkustooth, Newmusicbuff.wordpress.com

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
Recording, notes and presentation are first rate.
Gerald Fenech, Gzira, Malta
17 January 2018
DVD Spotlight on www.dailyclassicalmusic.com
Hard to Chew
Music by Axel Borup-Jørgensen - heard by GERALD FENECH
'This is music that needs to be listened to several times before one can start to comprehend the composer's inner thoughts ...'
                             Marin - Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012). © 2017 OUR Recordings
Born on 22 November 1924, Axel Borup-Jørgensen is considered one of Denmark's most important twentieth century composers. Reared in Sweden since the age of two and a half, the young Axel inherited his father's passion for invention, and from early boyhood he was able to play several instruments. The complete shift towards classical music came in 1942 when his piano teacher introduced him to the slow movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Indeed, the composer admits that the sensation he felt was that of a religious conversion.
Borup-Jørgensen also nurtured a great love of nature, particularly the Swedish landscape, and this was a constant source of inspiration in his musical career. In 1946 he returned to Denmark, where, with the help of several teachers he was introduced to various forms of music, something that spurred him to abandon piano playing and make composition his main activity.
After his divorce in 1958 the composer was able to devote more time to writing music, and in 1959 and 1962 he visited Darmstadt, the centre of European modern music, to delve deeper into the atonal world that was expanding all the time. When he returned from his second visit he had found his own personal style which he kept developing up to the very end of his life. After nearly fifty years of successes and many accolades, Borup-Jørgensen died on 15 October 2012 aged eighty-eight.
This double-disc set (DVD and SACD) is a fine specimen of the composer's style and covers a wide spectrum of his musical ingenuity, particularly in the way he paired different instruments with today's electronic sounds. I must be frank and admit that I found this programme rather hard to chew, particularly the 1987 Nachtstück for tenor recorder and the 1959 Winter Pieces for piano. This is music that needs to be listened to several times before one can start to comprehend the composer's inner thoughts, so prospective buyers, post-modern aficionados included, should be prepared to practice patience before one starts to appreciate what this sound world has to offer.
Maybe starting with the DVD of Marin — An Animated Fantasy will help immeasurably towards one's acceptance of the significance of this composer.
Recording, notes and presentation are first rate.
Gerald Fenech, Gzira, Malta

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
10/10/10 Eine musikalische und interpretatorische Meisterleistung
Heintz Braun, Klassik Heute, Germany
02 January 2018
Marin ist eine luxuriöse, umfangreiche Hommage an Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012), einen der wichtigsten dänischen Komponisten des Zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts.Nach jahrelanger intensiver Vorarbeit hat das dänische Label Our Recordings einen repräsentativen Querschnitt durch das Schaffen des Komponisten veröffentlicht, darunter auch eine Neueinspielung von Marin, dem sensationellen orchestralen Hauptwerk Borup-Jørgensens. Our Recordings hat weder Kosten noch Mühen gescheut, eine Aufnahme im Superlativ vorzulegen, sowohl was die musikalische Umsetzung dieses hochkomplexen, fast zwanzigminütigen Werkes mit dem Dänischen Nationalen Symphonieorchester unter Thomas Søndergård als auch dessen aufnahmetechnisch schlichtweg phänomenale Realisierung durch Preben Iwan im hochauflösenden DXD-Format (352,8 kHz/32 bit) anbelangt. Selten zuvor hat man Musik in einer solchen brillanten Klarheit und Klangtiefe gehört.
Marin erklang zum ersten Mal im Jahr 1970 mit dem gleichen Orchester unter Leitung von Herbert Blomstedt. Der Titel des Werkes legt nahe, was die Inspiration des Komponisten gewesen ist: das Meer mit all seinen Farben und seiner unablässigen Bewegung, seiner Tiefe und dem auch im übertragenen Sinne Schäumen klanglicher Verästelungen. Wie Elisabet Selin, die Tochter des Komponisten, im Beiheft berichtet, gestaltete sich das schier physische Schreiben dieses Werkes in über 1000 Stunden als wahre Herkules-Aufgabe – in der feinsäuberlichen, fast kalligraphischen Handschrift des Komponisten auf riesigen Partiturseiten im Format von 130x30 cm!
Bis auf Coast of Sirenes op. 100, das vom ebenfalls dänischen Klassik-Label Dacapo übernommen wurde, sind alle Einspielungen der vorliegenden Zusammenstellung Originalaufnahmen von Our Recordings, die bereits zuvor auf verschiedenen Veröffentlichungen des Labels erschienen sind. Es fällt schwer, ein Werk aus dieser überaus vielfältigen und gelungenen Kompilation hervorzuheben. Musik und Interpretation bewegen sich auf allerhöchstem Niveau. Neben Marin beeindruckten mich am meisten die großartige, frühe Music for percussion and viola op. 18, das dunkel gefärbte, klanglich höchst diffizile Nachtstück op. 118 für Tenorblockflöte solo (hier in der phänomenalen Aufnahme mit der Widmungsträgerin Elisabet Selin sowie Pergolato op. 183, das tief empfundene letzte vollendete Werk des Komponisten in der Einspielung mit der dänischen Blockflötistin Michala Petri.
Als willkommenes „Bonus-Material“ wird die SACD durch eine DVD ergänzt, auf der Marin als Grundlage eines großartigen surrealistischen Animationsfilms dient, der von Lückow Film und einem internationalen Team von Mitarbeitern unter der Regie von Morten Bartholdy verwirklicht wurde. Besonders interessant das ebenso enthaltene, mit englischen Untertiteln versehene Filmportrait Axel, in dem zahlreiche Freunde, Kollegen, Weggefährten und natürlich auch die Tochter des Komponisten zu Worte kommen.
Nicht allein also aufgrund der Neueinspielung von Marin ist dieses Set zu empfehlen. Allen (auch zukünftigen) Freunden der Musik des großen Dänen sei diese audiovisuelle Hommage ans Herz gelegt. Eine musikalische und interpretatorische Meisterleistung!
Heintz Braun, Klassik Heute, Germany

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
. It conjures a curious, magical underwater world where semi-organic, abstract shapes are formed and coalesce as if prompted by the unfurling score itself.
Andrew Mellor, Gramophone
27 December 2017
Marin was both a beginning and an ending for the Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen. Who put so much of himself into the piece that he never wrote for orchestra on the same scale again. It was commissioned by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation in 1965 to celebrate 40 years of its symphony orchestra; the corporation and it’s the conductor Herbert Blomstedt knew the young composer from a competition earlier that year.
In Marin, Borup-Jørgensen delivered an engrossing and monolithic vision of the see in various phases. As a listening experience it can be compared to pre-Grand Macabre Ligeti but the language occupies its own territory. The piece heaves itself up from the depths and, nearly 20 minutes, disintegrates at height. It is a true tapestry in which no instrument takes a predominant role, at one point, the violins alone divide into 55 parts.
This production is a curious one in some respect, but its triumph is that it treats Marin with the same everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach that its creator did (it took Borup-Jørgensen seven years to write, he rented a separate house in which he spend 1.000 hours completing the fair copy). Thomas Søndergård presides over an intense and clear reading of the score, recorded in DXD format, but that´s just for starters. On a separate DVD – complete with a subtle and illuminating documentary study of the composer with input from a raft of great names in Danish music – we see a newly commissioned animated film by Morten Bartholdy. It conjures a curious, magical underwater world where semi-organic, abstract shapes are formed and coalesce as if prompted by the unfurling score itself.
Watching the film at the premiere in May, in the comfort of a Copenhagen cinema with Marin rumbling in full surround-sound, I was utterly seduced. Watching on a small screen inevitably has less impact, but still the synergy of music and image intrigues, despite the aesthetic specificity and oddity of the latter component (that´s probably the point). Filling the SACD are works by the same composer that features on previous OUR Recordings issues, and the level of performers is high: Mahan Esfahani, Michala Petri, Tim Frederiksen and many more feature, in addition to the composer´s daughter Elisabet Selin, who gives a compelling performance of Nachstück. The English-language booklet could have used a professional proofread. But just like the essay “On Hearing Marin in 2017: Reflections from a Young Person” by Agnete Hannibal Petri – Lars Hannibal and Michala Petri`s daughter – it´s the eccentricity and comprehensiveness of this product that make it both affecting and worthwhile: 
Andrew Mellor, Gramophone

Michala Petri, recorder
Lars Hannibal, guitar
Garden Party
10/10/10" Einem absoluten Vergnügen"
Markus Zahnhausen, Klassik Heute, Germany
23 December 2017

Was lange währt, darf auch gebührend gefeiert werden: Das weltbekannte dänische Künstler-Duo Michala Petri (Blockflöte) und Lars Hannibal (Gitarre) spielte sein erstes Konzert im Jahr 1992 in Südspanien. Seither haben die beiden sympathischen Musiker über 1.500 Konzerte in den bedeutendsten Konzertsälen rund um den Erdball gegeben und waren auf den wichtigsten Musikfestivals zu Gast. Bekannte zeitgenössische Komponisten haben eigens für das Duo geschrieben, dessen nunmehr ein Viertljahrhundert währendes Schaffen auf zahlreichen CDs dokumentiert ist.

Der Titel des Jubiläumsalbums Garden-Party legt die Vorstellung einer ebensolchen nahe, führt aber ein wenig in die Irre, denn er ist dem gleichnamigen, 1992 entstandenen Stück des dänischen Komponisten Asger Lund Christiansen (1927-1998) entlehnt, das in einer Ersteinspielung auf diesem Album erscheint.

An dieser Stelle möchte ich eine persönliche Erinnerung an dieses bemerkenswerte Ensemble einflechten. Es wird Anfang der 2000-er Jahre gewesen sein, als ich das Vergnügen hatte, die beiden Musiker zum ersten Mal „live“ in einem Konzert in der fabelhaften Aura und Akustik des Münchner Prinzregententheaters hören zu dürfen. Neben der außerordentlichen Virtuosität und Bühnenpräsenz sind mir bis heute die gelungenen Bearbeitungen einiger Lyrischer Stücke Edvard Griegs in Erinnerung geblieben, die so überzeugend klangen, als ob sie genau für diese Besetzung geschrieben worden wären.

Zusammen mit den Humoristischen Bagatellen ihres großen dänischen Landsmannes Carl Nielsen bildet eine Auswahl eben jener Lyrischen Stücke sozusagen den Eckpfeiler des Programms – zauberhafte musikalische Petitessen in fabelhaften Arrangements, mit perfekter Leichtigkeit und Klangsinn gespielt.

Dazwischen, gleichsam als Intermezzi, zwei herrliche, ein wenig an Eric Satie erinnernde Kompositionen Lars Hannibals, die ebenso auf diesem Album zum ersten Mal eingespielt wurden: Dreams und Sunset Dance entführen den Hörer in eine ruhige, zeitlose Traumwelt und fügen sich ideal in das Gesamtkonzept der CD ein.

Dramaturgisch geschickt sind die beiden umfangreichsten Kompositionen des Programms in der Mitte platziert: die in Lars Hannibals Bearbeitung überraschend „vollwertig“ klingende Fassung von Edouard Lalos ursprünglich 1878 für den legendären Geiger Sarasate geschriebener Fantasie norvégienne sowie die bereits eingangs erwähnte Garden Party Lund Christiansens, eine originelle Suite, die durchaus bildhaft, jedoch nie plakativ die Charaktere von sechs verschiedenen (Garten)vögeln wie Amsel, Buchfink, Dompfaff, Bachstelze u.a. darstellt. Die Titelgebung des Werkes und seiner Sätze wirkt auf mich wie ein bescheidenes Understatement, handelt es sich doch spieltechnisch wie musikalisch um äußerst anspruchsvolle Miniaturen, die sich keineswegs auf die Imitation von Vogelgezwitscher reduzieren lassen.

Michala Petri ist bei alldem ganz in ihrem Element. Unter Einsatz einer breiten Palette verschieden timbrierter Blockflöten glänzt sie durch ihre musikalische Natürlichkeit. Lars Hannibal fungiert nicht nur als Begleiter, sondern als absolut ebenbürtiger musikalischer Partner.

Der herrliche Klang der Aufnahme und ein umfangreiches mehrsprachiges Beiheft lassen die CD zu einem absoluten Vergnügen werden. Ohne Zweifel ein wahrhaft würdiges Fest zum 25-jährigen bestehen dieses außergewöhnlichen Künstler-Duos.

Markus Zahnhausen, Klassik Heute, Germany

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
The music (unquestionably in avant-garde idiom) is written for a very disparate collection of instruments, which the composer utilises to the full.
Barry Forshaw, CD Choice
10 December 2017
CD Choice (UK)
BORUP-JORENSEN: MARIN, Soloists, DNSO, Thomas Sondergard/ OUR Recordings, 21104 26   This curious package (containing both a DVD and a Super Audio CD) contains both an animated film and a portrait of the composer Axel Borup-Jorgensen. The music (unquestionably in avant-garde idiom) is written for a very disparate collection of instruments, which the composer utilises to the full. Not for every taste, but those of adventurous mien might find this a worthwhile investment.
Barry Forshaw, CD Choice

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
. The fantasy is quite beautiful, and (fortunately) about as far from Walt Disney and Pixar as one could imagine!
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare
10 December 2017
 
BORUP-JØRGENSEN Marin ● Thomas Søndergård, cond; Danish Natl SO ● OUR 2.110426 (SACD 78:29 + DVD)
k music for percussion + viola. Für Cembalo und Orgel. Nachstück. winter pieces. Pergolato. Coast of Sirens. DVD: Axel – A Portrait Film
The purpose of this release appears to be two-fold: to introduce new listeners to the music of Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen, who died in 2012, and to bring us a spectacular new recording of Marin, one of his few works for orchestra. Promoting this composer has been an ongoing effort for recorder virtuosa Michala Petri (his virtual “second daughter”), Lars Hannibal, and their record label, OUR Recordings: in 2016 (Fanfare 39:3), I reviewed an OUR Recordings tribute to this composer titled Nordic Sound, and it included another of his major works (Sommasvit), plus five works by the composer's friends and colleagues. Here, with this new release, the focus is on Marin, which is not quite 19 minutes in length; the remainder of the SACD is occupied by works and performances previously released on the OUR Recordings or Dacapo labels. On the DVD, the same performance of Marin is paired with an animated fantasy inspired by the music, and the rest of the DVD is devoted to a “portrait film”—in other words, a documentary—about the composer. It is about a half-hour long.
It is interesting to compare Marin with John Luther Adams's Become Ocean, another modern orchestral work inspired by the sea. Arguably, Become Ocean is the more literal of the two, particularly in its musical depiction of waves. In contrast, Marin makes you aware of the water's actual weight. The music has a very heavy sound—and if you've got speakers with a bass good response, wait until you hear this recording, which is an audiophile's dream (and a downstairs neighbor's nightmare). At the same time, Marin was composed to be as precise and detailed as chamber music; Axel Borup-Jørgensen knew what he wanted, and he was not a composer who left things to chance. Although he studied at Darmstadt, he was not a serial composer, and he preferred to follow his instincts than to adhere to dogma or formulas. However, as is stated at the start of the documentary, his goal was not originality, but honesty—particularly with himself, I would imagine. In his own way, Borup-Jørgensen was as exacting as Maurice Ravel, and perhaps I am not too wide of the mark when I suggest that there are similarities between Marin and La valse—except Borup-Jørgensen omits the waltz and drowns Vienna under megatons of salt water!
I enjoyed the “animated fantasy,” which tells a wordless story, although the story is open to multiple interpretations. Suffice it to say that it is set at the bottom of the ocean and features a humanoid civilization that experiences Arthur C. Clarke-like transformative events. The fantasy is quite beautiful, and (fortunately) about as far from Walt Disney and Pixar as one could imagine!
If one of the purposes of this release, as I supposed above, was to stimulate interest in this composer, then it is a success, at least for me. The documentary contains excerpts from many of his works, and these snippets left me wanting to hear more. I'm usually not hugely interested in watching instrumental music being performed, but I make an exception for percussion music (perhaps because a percussionist's movements resemble those of a dancer?), and percussion instruments were very important to this composer. One of the most interesting things I learned about Borup-Jørgensen from this documentary was that he took as much care specifying how he wanted phrases to end as he did specifying how he wanted them to begin, and his music is filled with precise and sometimes innovatively expressed directions for performers. I very much like the idea that endings are just as important as beginnings, as endings are preludes to silence, and silence is just a different sort of music.
For me, Marin is the strongest work on the SACD, and I consider the other works to be a very generous bonus, and perhaps music to grow into over time. Among these bonuses, however, the most striking is Pergolato, a work for solo treble recorder, here played by Michala Petri herself. Borup-Jørgensen composed it for her, and it was his final composition—a very touching way to end a career. Nachstück, for solo tenor recorder, also is very fine, and here, it is played by Elisabet Selin, the composer's daughter, and Petri's only private student.
The other recording of Marin is on the Marco Polo/Dacapo label, and features the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leif Segerstam. It is virtually unavailable, although it has been uploaded onto YouTube. It seems excellent too, but I don't hear a compelling reason for preferring it to this new OUR Recordings release. 
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
let’s celebrate the magnificence of both this particular product and, especially, the magnificently fertile imagination of Axel Borup-Jørgensen.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare
22 November 2017
 
BORUP-JØRGENSEN MARIN—An Animated Fantasy. AXEL—A Portrait Film  Ÿ  Thomas Søndergård, cond; Danish Natl SO  Ÿ  OUR Recordings 2.110426 (DVD: 58:24 + SACD: 79:29) & Selections by Borup-Jørgensen taken from previous releases
 
This release marks a major step forward in our understanding of Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924—2012), whose music has so impressed me over the course of a number of releases. In Fanfare 40:4, I referred to a disc of his organ music as “a phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening” and placed it firmly on my 2017 Wants List, while a disc of guitar music in Fanfare 41:2 offered further cause for celebration.
Although presented in the order of the animated fantasy MARIN followed by the documentary Axel, one might perhaps suggest the order is reversed in practice. The background is vital in that one gains an appreciation of the importance of Marin the piece in Borup-Jørgensen’s output—it is his most extended orchestral work. The film portrait, AXEL, is both affectionate and informed, a veritable roll-call of Danish luminaries paying tribute to Borup-Jørgensen, from Michala Petri through to Per Nørgård, Ib Nørholm, Bent Sørensen and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. Most of all, though, we take away an impression of a composer who was above all honest in intent. A quiet man, he was nevertheless uncompromising in what he wanted. Family members are important, too, from the composer’s niece to his daughter, Elisabet Selin (who, along with Edition Borup-Jørgensen, funded the entire project).
Glorious scenery makes up an important part of the imagery we see, as this was an important catalyst for the composer’s imagination, also: the op. 24 piece Sommasvit (1957), for example, was directly inspired by a lake. A description of Borup-Jørgensen as a “lyric expressionist” seems to hit the nail on the head. Insights are shown, too, on Borup-Jørgensen’s compositional processes, and his intensely visual nature. He was an artist, also, and apparently his analysis of Webern Variations was mainly pictorial in nature. So, whilst there is no denying the influence of Darmstadt Modernism on Borup-Jørgensen, one has to admire how he married this strong structural grasp with his lyricism (parallels to Alban Berg spring to mind); only at the very end of his life did he loosen this tightness of construction.
The film of Marin by Allan O. Lückow is inventive and, well, odd. Or, as I put it in my listening notes, “odd, odd, odd.” Basing the imagery on some of the composer’s own drawings, we enter an alternative, submarine universe inhabited by creatures called “marenes”; their doings are laid over Borup-Jørgensen’s score of Marin. This could be a futuristic world, but even that is left open: perhaps it is a parallel one?. Surreal and intensely beautiful, it is a must-watch, but not for repeated viewings. The gold is really in the score itself, and for that we have the orchestral performance on the SACD. Interestingly, when Petri is interviewed in the film AXEL, she invites us, the listeners, to use images to make sense of Borup-Jørgensen’s complex and individual world. Whether the MARIN experiment works I am finding is mainly one of mood: sometimes it seems like genius, sometimes frankly I’d rather be left alone with the music.
Both films were premiered on the same evening at the Danish Filminstitute May 30th 2017.
The SACD opens with Marin minus any images. There is something primal about the opening of Marin (“Sea piece” in Swedish, composed 1953—60). Whilst chthonic grumblings might seem to be an integral and rather hackneyed stock-in-trade of any self-respecting modernist, Borup-Jørgensen seems to take it a step further. Perhaps only Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s similar openings actually evoke these spaces. Premiered in 1970 by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Herbert Blomstedt, the current performance is recorded in DXD format, allowing for maximal detail to come through. After Marin, the composer shied away from large orchestral pieces. Understandable given the sheer number of hours of work that went into this score, but something one regrets, nonetheless. The scoring is often deft and it is clear the composer knew exactly what he wanted. The performance is fabulous, attentive and expert, and climaxes rendered in bright, stunning sound.
Pieces related to the film AXEL appear thereafter, taken from both OUR Recordings and DaCapo catalogs. The focused flow of the Music for Percussion and Viola, op. 18, enhanced by Tim Frederiksen’s Bashmet-index power viola meeting the Percurama Percussion Ensemble under Gert Mortensen, offers during its course an alternative type of primitivism, with rhythms pounding away, their regularity and invitation to be subverted by other instruments.
While Für Cembalo und Orgel, op. 133/2 appears almost spooky in this performance (Mahan Esfahani ad Jens E. Christensen), perhaps part of that comes with it being in the shadow of Marin in the disc playing order. The composer’s daughter, Elisabet Selin, performs the ten-minute Nachtstück, op. 118/1 for tenor recorder of 1987. Use of breath through the instrument and multiphonics are superbly done. A rather harder-edged aspect of Borup-Jørgensen comes across in the pointillist Winter Pieces, op. 30b for piano of 1959, here performed by Erik Kaltoft. Jagged and forbidding, the score plays for only four minutes but nevertheless is actually quite exhausting to listen to. There is little respite.
The solo recorder piece Pergolato comes from that final period where control was being relaxed. The performer has significant choice about various parameters, and is performed here by Petri who, we are told in the documentary, ended up rehearsing for an upcoming performance of the piece with the composer in Petri’s car as it was the only time-slot they had. It is superbly, poignantly performed. And it is not the final offering, either: that is left to the 16-minute Coast of Sirens, op. 100 for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, guitar, piano, percussion and multivoice tape. Written between 1983 and 1985, it appears in a performance by the Aarhus Sinfonietta taken from the DaCapo release Carambolage. The vocal sounds on the tape are like a modernist version of Debussy’s “Sirènes.” There is a hypnotic element here that draws one in: a most beautiful piece.
This whole venture is clearly heart-based. It is also invaluable in our understanding of Axel Borup-Jørgensen. I wonder if OUR Recordings could be persuaded to produce a similar venture on related composers. Several years ago, I was knocked for six by a Proms performance of Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s Incontri by the BBC Symphony under Thomas Dausgaard (it followed Langgaard’s Symphony No. 11, “Ixion,” both works receiving their UK premieres). Maybe Gudmundsen-Holmgreen could be next? In the meantime, let’s celebrate the magnificence of both this particular product and, especially, the magnificently fertile imagination of Axel Borup-Jørgensen.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
It is an inventive visual fantasy, mysterious in its ambiguity of image and narrative.
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare
17 November 2017
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare
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