By Joshua Cheek
Henning Christiansen was a composer, artist and a central figure of the Danish branch of the Fluxus movement. He worked with artists such as Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik, Bazon Brock and Wolf Vostell as well as with his wife Ursula Reuter Christiansen. Following studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Copenhagen, he attended the Darmstadt Summer School in 1962, where he became involved with the Fluxus movement and later, the radical Danish art movement Ex School.
Despite distinguished avant garde credentials and membership in one of the central art movements of the second-half of the 20th century, Christiansen’s prolific output remains difficult to hear given the scant documentation available, few recordings and the fact that his works are very rarely performed to this day. Henning Christiansen’s work can be beautiful, unsettling, discreet, random, charming and humorous.
Christiansen was also a close friend of the Petri family. Michala recalls:
“Henning Christiansen was a wonderful and very unique man, only doing what he thought was right, and wanting to be a complete and independent human being. He was quietly humorous and deeply serious at the same time. He was a friend of my parents, Hanne Petri and violinist Kanny Sambleben, who premiered some of his works for piano and violin, and when I was six, he composed the first piece I ever received from a composer, three little pieces called, “To Play for a Child - for recorder and piano”. “It is Spring” is a typical title; making you see the obvious, as if it is special and new, and always making you feel the present moment.”
At the end of the piece Henning writes:
“Longing for spring. The weather is grey and gloomy. But a girl is standing, playing the sopranino now.”