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Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
Nach der mehr als beachtlichen Messiaen-Platte erneut eine schöne Visitenkarte des Nationalen Dänischen Vokalensembles.
Dr. Matthias Lange , Klassik.com, Germany
30 April 2018
Zwei 1890er
Vor allem Martinus Chorwerke werden selten interpretiert. Die großartige Messe von Frank Martin leuchtet kammermusikalisch intensiv. Nach der mehr als beachtlichen Messiaen-Platte erneut eine schöne Visitenkarte des Nationalen Dänischen Vokalensembles. 
 
Die berühmte Messe für Doppelchor von Frank Martin, in wesentlichen Teilen entstanden 1922, ist einer der Dreh- und Angelpunkte geistlicher Chormusik im 20. Jahrhundert: In ihrem Charakter intim und tiefgehend, von fast verstörend intensiver Geste und mit diesen Eigenschaften wohl besonders passend in das zerklüftete, von Konflikten erschütterte 20. Jahrhundert. Satztechnisch ist sie kaleidoskopartig reich, harmonisch überwältigend – ein wenig kann man es auch heute noch nachempfinden, dass dieses persönliche Bekenntniswerk für Frank Martin jahrzehntelang zu intim für die öffentliche Aufführung schien. Dokumentiert ist sie vor allem in den letzten beiden Jahrzehnten in etwa einem Dutzend, teils herausragenden Aufnahmen. Doch lädt sie selbstverständlich zur Neuinspektion ein: Marcus Creed und das professionelle Nationale Dänische Vokalensemble haben sich jetzt daran gemacht.
Kombiniert wird die Messe mit den englischsprachigen 'Songs of Ariel', die Martin 1950 nach Vorlagen des Shakespeare-Stücks ‚Der Sturm‘ schrieb: Sie zeigen einen weit virtuoseren Zugriff auf das chorische Geschehen, führen auch in deutlich expressivere Gefilde, garniert mit harmonisch heiklen Verbindungen.
Auf der aktuellen Platte wird Martin mit seinem gleichfalls 1890 geborenen Altersgenossen Bohuslav Martinů in einen spannenden Kontext gestellt. Martinůs 'Four Songs of the Virgin Mary' entfalten sich aus schlichten musikalischen Grundlagen, werden effektvoll in einen oft homophonen Satz übertragen, auch mit kontrapunktischen Rauheiten versehen, die intensive Bewegung evozieren und aus der Ruhe der tschechischen Volkspoesie wegführen, die anfangs noch bestimmend war. Ende der 1950er Jahre komponierte Martinů auf Texte eines Jugendfreunds vier Kantaten, eine davon unbegleitet – 'Romance from the Dandelions' betitelt, die hier das Programm beschließt. Ein melancholischer Blick zurück auf das eigene, von fortgesetzter Flucht geprägte Leben setzt den Ton. Der weit aufgefächerte, luftig gesetzte Chor hat zunächst scheinbar schlichte Aufgaben, die es mit würziger Harmonik und heiklen Klängen von edler Konzentration am Ende aber doch in sich haben.
Ein profiliertes Ensemble
Das ist insgesamt ebenso feine wie attraktive Musik. Und das Nationale Dänische Vokalensemble überzeugt in diesem Programm sehr deutlich – ähnlich, wie auf der 2015 erschienenen Platte mit Werken Olivier Messiaens. In der Grundaufstellung sind es 18 Vokalisten, bei Martin 24 – wohl auch wegen der Doppelchörigkeit, die sich wiederum in einzelnen Sätzen noch weiter aufspreizt. In jedem Fall also eine konzentrierte, schlanke Besetzung, die als eigenständige Größe dann auch den Deutungsrahmen bestimmt: Marcus Creeds Fassung mit den Dänen gerät kammermusikalisch, ist gesammelt, bestimmt von großer Präzision und Klarheit. Manchem mag hier eine Spur Magie größerer Register fehlen: Stimmig ist dieser Zugang gleichwohl. Und darin auch anderen großartigen Deutungen der Messe verschieden, etwa denen von Daniel Reuss und dem RIAS Kammerchor oder Harry Christophers und The Sixteen; besetzungsbedingt gänzlich andersartig als James O'Donnells Knaben des Westminster Cathedral Choir es unbestritten großartig gesungen haben, ist es ohnehin.
Doch verfängt der kammermusikalische Ansatz bei den 'Songs of Ariel' wie bei Martinů besonders deutlich, ist die lebendige, von den Texten ausgehende Art des Singens sehr überzeugend. Niemand muss sich sorgen: Größere Kantilenen geraten durchaus nicht schütter, doch werden sie vor allem mit klaren Konturen gebildet. Immer wieder lösen sich expressive Soli souverän aus dem Ensemblekontext. Soli, angesichts deren individueller Größe man erstaunt ist, wie deutlich diese Stimmen dann auch wieder in den Ensembleklang eintreten können. Marcus Creed wählt maßvolle, gelegentlich sogar verhalten wirkende Tempi – der erstaunlich große Atem des Ensembles macht das problemlos möglich. In verhaltener Dynamik wird anmutig differenziert; große Gesten lassen sich gleichwohl äußerst profiliert vernehmen. Die Intonation ist angesichts der Herausforderungen exzellent zu nennen. Eine einzige Irritation ist am Schluss des Sanctus‘ zu verzeichnen: Das emphatisch gerufene E-Dur, das der erste Chor nach kurzer Note abreißen lässt, gleicht dem darunter liegenden, in anderer Lage gesungenen des zweiten Chors durchaus nicht. Mit Blick auf den Klang überwiegen die positiven Befunde: Das Bild ist klar und plastisch, wirkt harmonisch und ausgewogen – eine blitzsaubere Studioaufnahme. Mit letzterem verbindet sich die einzige Einschränkung: Das Moment des räumlichen Charmes geht der Messe ab, den anderen Werken weniger.
Zu hören ist hochkarätige Chormusik des 20. Jahrhunderts. Vor allem Martinůs Chorwerke werden seltener interpretiert. Die großartige Messe von Frank Martin leuchtet kammermusikalisch intensiv. Nach der mehr als beachtlichen Messiaen-Platte erneut eine schöne Visitenkarte des Nationalen Dänischen Vokalensembles und der Zusammenarbeit mit Marcus Creed. 
Interpretation:4
Klangqualität:4
Repertoirewert: 4
Booklet:3



 
 


Dr. Matthias Lange , Klassik.com, Germany

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
It is something of a milestone among Scandinavian New Music offerings in recent years.
Grego Applegate Edwards, Classical-Modern Music Review (USA)
30 April 2018
I have gone into the music of Danish composer Axel Borup-Jorgensen (1924-2012) at some length on these pages. (See articles from February 23, 2017, February 3, 2014 and September 7, 2016.) However I have not previously discussed his orchestral works. This morning I get the opportunity for that with a deluxe DVD-SACD set of Marin (Our Recordings 2.110426). The DVD contains two films that utilize Borup-Jorgensen's music, "Marin, An Animated Fantasy," and "Axel, A Portrait Film." The SACD contains the full nearly 20-minute performance of the orchestra work "Marin" plus a number of chamber works from the film of the same name.
I have no way of commenting on the DVD because every one of my players or disk drives has failed in the last several years.
On the SACD I have happily spent a good deal of time. Its nearly 80 minute length allows a good number of relevant compositions from the film(s) to be explored. The orchestral opus "Marin" gets a fully fleshed, vibrantly sonic reading from Thomas Sondergard conducting the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. Written at various stages between 1963-1970, it has a High Modernist soundscaped sonority and a good deal of dimensional depth. I would not hesitate to number this as among Borup-Jorgensen's most profound and effective works.
Another essential on the disc is his "Coast of Sirens, Op. 100" (1983-85) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, guitar, piano, percussion and multivoice tape. The female voices ethereally evoke the seductive clarion call while the chamber ensemble wraps itself in and around the vocals with luminous elements of very modern atmospheric articulations.
The two works form a crucial set of bookends for five more sparsely configured works. There are two pieces for solo recorders, very characteristic of Borup-Jorgensen's angular contemporary treatment of the instrument. The 1955-56 "Music for Percussion + Viola" has a heightened sonic sense, a rhythmic drive and a pronounced trajectory more-or-less characteristic of the best New Music of that period. The Percurama Percussion Ensemble and Tim Frederiksen on viola contrast and commune together in ways that make for worthy listening. The 1989 "Fur Cembalo und Orgel" dramatically explores sound colors and wave-like swells while one of the 1959 "Winter Pieces" for piano gives us a gentle and chilly weathered rumination.

In all the SACD provides the modernist aficionado with the most freewheeling and variously instrumented introduction of Borup-Jorgensen's music I have yet to hear. No doubt the DVD film sequence adds to our appreciation as well. For that I do recommend you check out this offering. It is something of a milestone among Scandinavian New Music offerings in recent years. Grego Applegate Edwards, April 30 2018
Grego Applegate Edwards, Classical-Modern Music Review (USA)

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
Klangtechnisch ist die Aufnahme superb, natürlich, direkt, transparent und ohne zusätzlichen Kunsthall.
Thomas Baack, Klassik Heute, Germany
26 April 2018
 
Klassik Heute (Germany)
(9/10/8)
 
Welch reizvolle Idee, Werke zweier 1890 Geborener mit nur um einen Buchstaben verschiedenen Nachnamen auf einer SACD zu präsentieren, nämlich Frank Martin und Bohuslav Martinu! Der Titel bezieht sich auf das Faktum, dass Frank Martin um seine in den zwanziger Jahren komponierte Messe solch ein Geheimnis machte, dass diese erst 1962 nach vielem gutem Zureden uraufgeführt werden konnte. Obwohl sie aufgrund der weitestgehend modalen, impressionistisch-archaisch gefärbten Harmonik mit einigen strawinskiesken rhythmischen Zuspitzungen den Ersthörer spontan begeistert, gehört sie – wie auch die Deutsche Motette von Richard Strauss und so einiges von Max Reger – zu den Werken, die schon aufgrund des geforderten immensen Stimmumfangs (2. Bass bis D, 1. Sopran bis c‘‘‘) extrem intonationssicheren (semi)professionellen Ensembles vorbehalten bleiben müssen. Strauss standen hierfür die Opernchöre in Wien und Berlin zur Verfügung, aber kaum jemand hätte damals die knapp halbstündige Ordinariumskomposition eines Newcomers riskiert. Wäre ich Leiter eines solchen Ensembles, würde ich zur Vorstellung des Werkes die süffigere Referenzaufnahme des BR-Chores verwenden, zum intensiven häuslichen Studium aber die hier vorliegende interpretatorisch zumindest gleichwertige, dabei wesentlich transparentere Version empfehlen.
Martins sängerisch noch anspruchsvollere 5 Gesänge des Ariel mit streckenweise vierfacher Teilung der Stimmgruppen von 1950 sind in ihrer erweiterten Tonalität seinem In terra pax verwandt, geben sich somit beim ersten Hören klanglich spröder. Es handelt sich hierbei um Monologe des Luftgeistes Ariel aus Shakespeares Sturm. Dankenswerterweise kann auf dem Web-Auftritt der Universal-Edition eine Probepartitur des Werks eingesehen werden, was das konzentrierte Zuhören ungemein erleichtert. Hier gelingt dem Danish National Vocal Ensemble eine meisterliche Referenzinterpretation mit klarer Diktion, makelloser Intonation und von wohlgerundetem Klang. Amüsant die chromatischen Vokalisen des Bienenschwarms in Where the bee sucks, die den von den Unterstimmen vorgetragenen Monolog immer wieder stören, das Hundegebell in Come unto this yellow sands und die Glocken in Five fathoms deep.
Die 4 Lieder über Maria (1934) und die „Romanze des Löwenzahns“ (1955) von Bohuslav Martinu sind eng mit dessen Liebe zur tschechischen Heimat verknüpft. Die vertonten Texte sind entweder mährische Volkslieder oder nutzen in der Romanze deren Duktus. Melodik und Rhythmik orientieren sich an westslawischer Folklore, die Harmonisierung changiert zwischen Archaismen im Stil der englischen Renaissance und impressionistischen Fortschreitungen.
Bei den klanglich durchaus gelungenen Interpretationen dieser selten eingespielten und somit hier nahezu unbekannten, folkloristisch beeinflussten Werke fehlen mir die Affinität zur tschechischen Sprache und die musikantische Agogik. Sie erschienen mir bereits beim ersten Anhören zu gepflegt madrigalesk und in der Diktion zu verwaschen. Der Unterschied zu Muttersprachlern wurde mir aber erst deutlich, nachdem ich die Supraphon-Aufnahmen der exzellenten Martinu Voices(Lieder), die mit wesentlich klarerer Diktion aufwarten, und des Kühn-Chors (Ballade), der stimmlich mehr slawische Vibranz bei etwas weniger präziser Intonation einbringt, zum Vergleich gehört hatte.
Klangtechnisch ist die Aufnahme superb, natürlich, direkt, transparent und ohne zusätzlichen Kunsthall. Das eine Handvoll Sopran-Stellen zur Schärfe neigt, ist den Komponisten zuzuschreiben (b‘‘ und c‘‘‘ bedürfen der Orchestergrundierung). Das Booklet ist höchst informativ, aber leider nur Englisch. Die tschechischen Texte liegen ebenfalls nur in vorangestellter englischer Übersetzung vor. Daher der Punktabzug hinsichtlich der Präsentation.
Vergleichsaufnahmen: Martin: Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Dijstra; BRKlassik - Martinu: Lieder, Martinu Voices, Supraphon SU 4237-2; Romanze, Milada Čejková, Kühn Mixed Choir, Supraphon SU 3925-2 
Thomas Baack, Klassik Heute, Germany

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
Homogeneity and precision, perfect intonation and razor sharp articulation, cool bel canto, vigour and integrity.
Valdemar Lønsted, Information, DK
17 April 2018
English Translation,- se below.
DR Vokalensemblet er alene med sin chefdirigent, Marcus Creed, på en anden nyudgivelse, og det er rent ud sagt en pragtfuld plade. Repertoiret er vel temmelig eksotisk – korværker af schweizeren Frank Martin (1890-1974) og tjekken Bohuslav Martinù (1890-1959) – men både aficionados og lyttere med åbne ører og sind vil blive belønnet med fremragende opførelser af melodiøs og stemningsfuld kvalitetsmusik fra en verden af ikke så længe siden. Det er egentlig ikke til at forstå, at det er det samme ensemble, der synger Erlkönigs Tochter. Men det langt mere udfordrende klangunivers og sangernes centrale placering i lydbilledet åbenbarer helt andre prægtige ressourcer, som Creed har fremelsket i de senere år.
 
Udgivelsens titel The Secret Mass går på Frank Martins messe, som blev komponeret i 1922 og derefter skjult i komponistens gemmer indtil 1963, hvor han tillod en enkelt opførelse. Der skulle gå endnu 11 år, inden partituret blev udgivet, og det er en gåde, hvorfor Martin ønskede at hemmeligholde dette mesterværk: En messe for dobbeltkor inspireret af renæssancens praksis med flere kor, der kunne synge over for hinanden i kirkerummet. Martins tonesprog er tidsløst, den gregorianske sang og 1500-tallets italienske vokalpolyfoni høres som en salgs traditionsbekendelser, mens Martins egen dynamiske stemmebehandling og sensuelle harmonier giver denne latinske messe præg af modernitet. Vi får det hele med Vokalensemblet: Homogenitet og præcision, perfekt intonation og knivskarp artikulation, svalt bel canto, vælde og inderlighed.
 
I Bohuslav Martinùs korsatser synger de på tjekkisk. Fire indtagende sange om Jomfru Maria i et betydeligt mere folketoneagtigt sprog end Martins, men mest bemærkelsesværdig er romancen om mælkebøtternes fortællingen om en bøhmisk pige som venter på kærestens hjemkomst fra krigen. Man mærker en affinitet til Gustav Mahler og hans Knaben Wunderhorn-sange i forbundetheden til naturen og den menneskelige hverdagssorg. Det er suggestiv kormusik, i sagens natur farvet af dybt vemod, og med sopranen Klaudia Kidon som blændende solist i pigens replikker.
 
Frank Martin står også for Songs of Ariel, fem sange fra Shakespeares Stormen. Luftånden Ariel er her på spil, vel nok af hankøn, ofte spillet en kvinde som f.eks. Clara Pontoppidan i opførelserne på Det Kongelige Teater 1926, da Sibelius’ scenemusik blev spillet for første gang. Ariels filosofiske smuler omsat til korsangere er vidunderlige perler, ganske særligt Full fathom five, stille bølgende musik som koralernes langsomme liv på havets bund, hvor den druknedes øjne er forvandlet til perler. Valdemar Lønsted, 17. April 2018, Valdemar Lønsted                   
 
Information, DK (English translation)
'Erlkönigs Tochter' is a newly-discovered German version of our national treasure, which now has its first recording. With the fiery anchorman of Concerto Copenhagen in charge, Lars Ulrik Mortensen, three foreign soloists and DNVE we get an admonishing corrective to our view of this national treasure.
In another release, the same vocal ensemble consolidates its position as a European elite choir.
Valdemar Lønsted, from Information (17 April, 2018)
Martin and Martinù
The DR Vocal Ensemble is alone with its Chief Conductor Marcus Creed, on another release, and it is, of course, a splendid record. The repertoire is quite exotic – choir works by the Swiss Frank Martin (1890-1974) and the Czech Bohuslav Martinù (1890-1959) - but both aficionados, and listeners with open ears and minds, will be rewarded with outstanding performances of melodious and atmospheric quality music from a world of not so long ago. It is hard to believe that this is the same ensemble that sings in Erlkönig's Tochter. But this is a much more challenging vocal universe and the singers’ central location in the sound reveals completely different magnificent resources, which Creed has evolved in recent years.
The title of the publication The Secret Mass come from the Frank Martin mass, which was composed in 1922 and then hidden away by the composer until 1963, when he allowed a single performance. It was another 11 years before the score was released and it is a mystery why Martin wanted to keep secret
this masterpiece: a Mass for double choir inspired by the Renaissance practice with several
choirs singing opposite each other in the church space. Martin's tonal language is timeless, the Gregorian
plainsong and 16th century Italian vocal polyphony heard as kind of traditions, Martin’s own dynamic voice-handling and sensual harmonies giving this Latin Mass a touch of modernity. We get it all with the Vocal Ensemble: homogeneity and precision, perfect intonation and razor sharp articulation, cool bel canto, vigour and integrity.
 
In Bohuslav Martinù's choir pieces, they sing in Czech. Four intriguing songs about the Virgin Mary in a significantly more populist language than Martin’s, but most remarkable is the Romance from the Dandelions, about a Bohemian girl waiting for her lover’s return from the war.
You feel an affinity to Gustav Mahler and his Knaben Wunderhorn in the connection to nature and everyday human sadness. It is suggestive choral music, inherently colored with deep melancholy, and with the soprano Klaudia Kidon as a dazzling soloist in the girl's lines.
 
Frank Martin is also responsible for Songs of Ariel, five songs from Shakespeare's Tempest. The air Spirit
Ariel is at stake, probably enough male, often played by woman like eg. Clara Pontoppidan in the performances at the Royal Theater in 1926, when Sibelius's stage music was performed for the first time. Ariel's philosophy, crumbs translated into choral songs, are wonderful gems, quite especially Full fathom five, with quietly rolling music like the corals’ slow life on the ocean floor, where drowned eyes are turned
to pearls.
Valdemar Lønsted, Information, DK

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
  OUR Recordings
Esromgade 15, opg.1 3.floor, room 1315
2200 Copenhagen N
Denmark
Tel: +45 4015 05 77
E-mail: hannibal@michalapetri.com
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