DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait) SACD: Selected Highlights
By Axel Borup-Jørgensen
Gert Mortensen was born in Denmark in 1958. He studied in the soloist class at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, where he is now professor.
For 25 years he held the position of solo percussionist with The Royal Danish Orchestra. During this time he became recognised as one of the leading concert percussionists in the world. He has performed as a soloist in concerts and on TV and radio in most of Europe, USA, Japan, Australia and China.
He has played at numerous international festivals, including the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Philharmonic, The Barbican, ISCM World Music Days, Warsaw Autumn, the Edinburgh Festival, The Bergen International Festival in Norway, Estate Musicale Venice, Beijing Percussion Festival, The Stockhausen Festival and at the Berliner Philharmonie.
Gert Mortensen’s research and projects are often a blend of the avant-garde and ethno-musicology, and at his concerts he makes use of a fascinating array of instruments from all parts of the globe where he has carried out studies: Mexico, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Burma, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cook Islands and China.
Together with the composer Per Nørgaard and the conductor Sir Simon Rattle he has studied Balinese gamelan music. Gert Mortensen brought home a complete chromatic gamelan set to be used in Western musical compositions, including the opera Det Guddommelige Tivoli (The Divine Circus) by Per Nørgård.
Gert Mortensen is known as a particularly innovative creator of instruments, and as a result of his search for new sounds he has created a new instrument, a ‘glassophone’, which has a range of nine octaves and is made of hand-blown glass used in the traditional Italian wine industry.
He has created various major multi-arts events, including an open-air music drama in Italy: Farm-o-rama for chamber orchestra, ballet dancers, old tractors and other agricultural machines and implements, animals and fireworks! Other examples are the modern dance performances Pulse of the Elements featuring African dancers and European percussionists as well as the ballet Stone Circle, an idea deriving from the magic stone circles in Africa and with music performed on stones as well as electronics, composed by Ejnar Kanding.
In 2010 and 2013, Gert Mortensen was Artistic Director of the gigantic ‘World-Music’ show GloboBEATS at the Concert Hall of The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, with more than 100 musicians and colourful dancers from all over the world.
Since 2004, Gert Mortensen has intensified his concert activities in China, where he has appeared in numerous big cities from Shenyang in the north to Guangzhou in the south, including famous concert halls such as the imposing National Center of Performance Arts in Beijing and Shanghai Grand Theatre.
He has been a soloist with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra and represented Denmark during the World Exposition EXPO 2010 in Shanghai. He has given lectures and master-classes and also had TV programmes on national Chinese CCTV. As a direct result of this, he has been co-founder of the world’s first Music Confucius Institute at The Royal Danish Academy of Music, established during the visit of the Chinese president to Copenhagen in 2012.
Gert Mortensen regularly holds master-classes all over the world, and has been guest teacher for the European Union Youth Orchestra under the conductor Claudio Abbado.
Among the awards that Gert Mortensen has received are the Carl Nielsen Prize, Jacob Gades Legat, Gladsaxe Music Prize and the Music Critics’ Honorary Award. A number of Scandinavia’s leading composers have written works for Gert Mortensen – including Per Nørgård, Svend-David Sandstrøm, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Poul Ruders and Askell Masson and he has worked with such international composers as Xenakis and Stockhausen.
Gert Mortensen has recorded for BIS, DG, OUR Recordings and Dacapo Records.