BRAVO!
Grego Applegate Edwards,
February 24 2017
Those who like me revel in the cathedral organ and at the same time respond readily to high modernism in this context (for example in the organ music of Messiaen) will find the recent release of Axel Borup-Jorgensen's Organ Music (Our Recordings 6.220617) quite appealing, a sophisticated trip into an organic cosmos both mysterious and bracing.

He was born in 1924 in Denmark, grew up in Sweden, lived a quiet but productive life as composer and teacher and left this world in 2012. Originally primarily a pianist-composer (type his name in the search box above for a review of some of that), he became increasingly attracted to the organ, happily, since the current release contains nine works that stand out for their contrasting quietude and energy, their subtle shifts and cosmic openness. This is a music of matter-of-fact suchness rather than virtuoso complexities. Part of that has to do with Axel's insurance that the works would be well performed by very competent players who were not necessarily leading technicians.

Borup-Jorgensen's attention to nuance and atmospheric presence, of silence into sound and vice-versa ensure that we do not miss extended passages of demonically difficult passagework. His is a music of the earth and sky, a spiritual reaching out to sonic worlds we do not often dwell in, an original cosmos of organicity,

The nine works on the CD include three for organ alone, one for organ duo, one for cembalo and organ,  two for organ and percussionist, one for alto and organ and one for bass and organ.

"Winter Music" for percussion and organ makes use of the cathedral space for some dramatically resonant drums against a searching organ. That one is perhaps the most dramatic but Jens E. Christensen's careful attention to detail and sympathy for the Borup-Jorgensen universe ensure that we are immersed in a sonic wash of sound that is as extended in modern realms as it is unassumung.

This is not music to overwhelm the senses or shock. It is a very personal journey into Borup-Jorgensen's exploration of sonic and textural possibilities latent in the modern cathedral organ.

Bravo!
Posted by Grego Applegate Edwards at 5:45 AM February 24rd 2017
Grego Applegate Edwards,

I recommend this disc wholeheartedly.
David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare Magazine USA
07 December 2016

Readers possessed of particularly good memories may recall my favorable review of Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s piano music just two issues ago. This Danish composer had an unusually distinct compositional voice, one which might not appeal to every reader of this magazine, but would to many readers, as it did to this reviewer. These are not showy virtuosic works, but (as the booklet notes) they emerge from stillness. The disc opens with Portal, scored for organ and percussion, wherein the listener is quickly immersed in thunder-evoking timpani rolls (the effect, however, is quite dissimilar to that produced by Berlioz in his Symphonie fantastique). The organ is used only in the piece to employ subtle dissonant chords in its tenor register, as the timpani dominates the proceedings throughout. For orgel IV features almost other-worldly sonorities in the organ, produced by sustained clusters of notes in the treble staff with Pointillistic interjections by the feet and other hand of the organist. Around the five-minute mark, Borup-Jørgensen brings in some of the ascending non-tonal arpeggiated figures that I noted in a number of his piano works in my previous review. The organ is equally if not more effective in this figuration.

Strophen adds an alto voice to the organ. The dark character of the voice is enhanced by the equally dark stops employed in the piece, and the work is the musicafication (don’t go looking this word up in your dictionary: It’s my coinage for the musical equivalent of personification) of depression. So, I wouldn’t listen to this if you need a good cheering up, but the piece will reveal its exquisite beauty to most listeners. Kalligrafier continues the mood but not the register of the preceding work, as it resumes an exploration of the upper notes in the organ’s wide range of pitches. As far as I can tell without access to a score, the piece eschews the pedals entirely, in fact. It forms an interesting conflation of Pointillistic and sustained sonorities, and ends in a whisper. Für Cembalo und Orgel deftly synthesizes harpsichord and organ sounds, something that I doubt that Max Reger, for instance, could have brought off, even if he’d wanted to. Borup-Jørgensen can get away with it because for him the organ is rarely the powerhouse instrument that it often is for other composers; it is instead a vehicle for colors, often pastel ones. Thus, this combination of harpsichord and organ, given its utterly distinctive sound, is a particular testimony to his gifts as a composer. It is my favorite work on the disc.

Textures are unsurprisingly more dense in the Organo per due for two organists, which was written for Eva Feldbæk and her colleague Jens Christensen. The notes don’t specify if this work is intended to be played on a single instrument or on two. By Borup-Jørgensen’s standards, the piece becomes more dramatically turgid than does most of his generally subtle music. Trilogi adds a bass voice to the organ, or more accurately, alternates organ and bass, as the two never perform simultaneously. The organ plays a few dissonant chords, and the bass follows with a wandering, more tonally focused line, and back and forth they go. The effect of the piece is an evocation of timelessness, and it is hauntingly beautiful. The text of this work is drawn from writings of Rilke and Nietzsche, and deals with transitions to darker times, reflections I have to say are particularly appropriate nowadays.

The Italian word misterioso graces the score at the beginning of For orgel XI, and sums up the essence of the piece. This particular work utilizes a greater range of the organ than most heard herein, as the composer explores different registers in its various sections. Closing the disc is winter music, which once again adds percussion and, like the first work in the recital, opens with a roll in the timpani. This work is, however, almost 10 times the length of Portal, giving the composer much more time to develop his ideas, and here the organ also has a much more prominent role. The piece is full of sound and fury (at around the seven-minute mark, you’ll hear the greatest outburst of timpani you’ve likely ever heard in a piece of music), but unlike what Shakespeare has his character state in Macbeth, it does signify something, and something quite profound at that. As in Strophen, this is dark music, and will engender sober reflection on the part of the listener.

Listening to an entire CD of music by Axel Borup-Jørgensen is quite an emotionally draining experience, although the experience lingers pleasantly in my memory, as I like Borup-Jørgensen’s organ music even better than I did his piano music. Aficionados of the new and unusual will find it as rewarding as I did, and to them, I recommend this disc wholeheartedly.

David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare Magazine USA

A phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare
30 November 2017
A disc of piano music by Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen made the 2016 Want List of my colleague Marc Medwin (issued on the same label as this organ disc, catalog number 6.220616.) The organ music of Borup-Jørgensen seems to be equally impressive. The introspection that the composer exhibited as a person is reflected in his sound-world, which is intensely private. One feels almost privileged to be eavesdropping into these musings; and as one listens, one hears that this is music of no compromise. There is a purity and honesty to Borup-Jørgensen’s expression that makes for compelling listening.
This is an SACD release, and the sound is stunning. The 2009 piece Portal is scored for organ and percussion and was written for a concert celebrating his own 85th birthday. There is an almost primal facet here, the drama of the timpani swells counteracted by the organ’s slitherings. Only one minute 40 seconds long, it punches way above its weight. It leads to the earlier (1983/4) piece for Orgel IV. Marked as “gliding but without haste,” the piece is dedicated to the present performer (the close musical relationship between performer and composer is chronicled in the booklet by Christensen.)  There is a sort of Messiaen-like hypnosis to the slow moving surface; the move from this work to Strophen is simply like moving from one room to the next. Scored for mezzo and organ, the much earlier Strophen (1961) sets a poem by Rilke (from Das Buch der Bilder). Enigmatic in the extreme, in terms of harmony, its somewhat Schoenbergian melodic shapes and its low dynamics, it operates as a question mark in sound.
The art of calligraphy inspired Kalligrafier of 1985/6. A mere five minutes in duration, it is a tightly constructed meditation. The fascinating combination of harpsichord and organ is impressively explored in Für Cembalo und Orgel of 1989. Mahan Esfahani is the virtuoso harpsichordist whose virtuoso, rapid gestures complement the slow-moving majesty of Christensen’s playing. The organ positively glistens in this recording, so the sonic contrast is one of ethereal, silvery sounds of the organ against impish silvery sounds from the harpsichord. The result is phenomenal, a real treat for the ears. Borup-Jørgensen’s sense of harmonic coherence ensures the work never wanders.
Organ duets are on the same level of rarity as didgeridoo duets, I imagine (and before you say anything, I actually own a tape of music for two didgeridoos, or whatever the plural of didgeridoo is.) Dating from the same year as Für Cembalo und Orgel, Organo per due is if anything more remarkable. As Jens E. Christensen says in his booklet notes, “the diversity of sound in the music makes one think of electronic music.” And diverse the sounds are indeed, but this never sounds like a soundtrack to a “B” horror movie: the intent, and the result, are serious and perfectly delivered.
Taking texts by Rilke and Nietsche, Trilogi of 1996 is for bass and organ (here performed by bass-baritone Jakob Bloch Jespersen.) The organ and voice parts are largely separate. In one sense, the organ commentates and responds to the voice’s declamations; mutual responses to the darkness of Winter and a leave-taking from Summer and Autumn. Jespersen is superbly firm of line, something worth noting given the wide meanderings he has to deliver.
The world of the For Orgel series returns with For Orgel XI of 1991—94, mysterious and profound before the extended Winter Music of 1986/7 rounds off the disc. This latter work, for organ and percussion and therefore creating a perfect balance within the program, is a varied panorama of sound. The percussion contribution includes dramatic gestures from cymbals, while the timpani seems to refer to the natural phenomena of wind and thunder.  
The organ playing of Jens E. Christensen is of sterling quality throughout; as noted above but worth underlining, the recording itself is demonstration standard. A phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening.  
Colin Clarke, Fanfare

A phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare USA
29 November 2016
A disc of piano music by Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen made the 2016 Want List of my colleague Marc Medwin (issued on the same label as this organ disc, catalog number 6.220616.) The organ music of Borup-Jørgensen seems to be equally impressive. The introspection that the composer exhibited as a person is reflected in his sound-world, which is intensely private. One feels almost privileged to be eavesdropping into these musings; and as one listens, one hears that this is music of no compromise. There is a purity and honesty to Borup-Jørgensen’s expression that makes for compelling listening.
This is an SACD release, and the sound is stunning. The 2009 piece Portal is scored for organ and percussion and was written for a concert celebrating his own 85th birthday. There is an almost primal facet here, the drama of the timpani swells counteracted by the organ’s slitherings. Only one minute 40 seconds long, it punches way above its weight. It leads to the earlier (1983/4) piece for Orgel IV. Marked as “gliding but without haste,” the piece is dedicated to the present performer (the close musical relationship between performer and composer is chronicled in the booklet by Christensen.)  There is a sort of Messiaen-like hypnosis to the slow moving surface; the move from this work to Strophen is simply like moving from one room to the next. Scored for mezzo and organ, the much earlier Strophen (1961) sets a poem by Rilke (from Das Buch der Bilder). Enigmatic in the extreme, in terms of harmony, its somewhat Schoenbergian melodic shapes and its low dynamics, it operates as a question mark in sound.
The art of calligraphy inspired Kalligrafier of 1985/6. A mere five minutes in duration, it is a tightly constructed meditation. The fascinating combination of harpsichord and organ is impressively explored in Für Cembalo und Orgel of 1989. Mahan Esfahani is the virtuoso harpsichordist whose virtuoso, rapid gestures complement the slow-moving majesty of Christensen’s playing. The organ positively glistens in this recording, so the sonic contrast is one of ethereal, silvery sounds of the organ against impish silvery sounds from the harpsichord. The result is phenomenal, a real treat for the ears. Borup-Jørgensen’s sense of harmonic coherence ensures the work never wanders.
Organ duets are on the same level of rarity as didgeridoo duets, I imagine (and before you say anything, I actually own a tape of music for two didgeridoos, or whatever the plural of didgeridoo is.) Dating from the same year as Für Cembalo und Orgel, Organo per due is if anything more remarkable. As Jens E. Christensen says in his booklet notes, “the diversity of sound in the music makes one think of electronic music.” And diverse the sounds are indeed, but this never sounds like a soundtrack to a “B” horror movie: the intent, and the result, are serious and perfectly delivered.
Taking texts by Rilke and Nietsche, Trilogi of 1996 is for bass and organ (here performed by bass-baritone Jakob Bloch Jespersen.) The organ and voice parts are largely separate. In one sense, the organ commentates and responds to the voice’s declamations; mutual responses to the darkness of Winter and a leave-taking from Summer and Autumn. Jespersen is superbly firm of line, something worth noting given the wide meanderings he has to deliver.
The world of the For Orgel series returns with For Orgel XI of 1991—94, mysterious and profound before the extended Winter Music of 1986/7 rounds off the disc. This latter work, for organ and percussion and therefore creating a perfect balance within the program, is a varied panorama of sound. The percussion contribution includes dramatic gestures from cymbals, while the timpani seems to refer to the natural phenomena of wind and thunder.   
The organ playing of Jens E. Christensen is of sterling quality throughout; as noted above but worth underlining, the recording itself is demonstration standard. A phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening. 
Colin Clarke, Fanfare USA

The 5.0 multichannel is splendid, and the stereo comes close".
John Miller and HRAudio.net
28 November 2016
Performance: 4.5 stars
Sonics (Stereo): 4.5 stars
Sonics (Multichannel):5.0 stars (Max!)
Axel Borup-Jørgensen, born in Denmark, lived with music from 1924-2012. When he was 2, his parents moved to Sweden, and after some travelling settled at the small country town of Mjölby. His father was an inventor by nature and young Axel inherited his creativity. From his early boyhood, he was able to play several instruments by ear: mouth organ, small accordion, mandolin and piano, which he played at school. In parallel, Axel became an artist skilled at drawing, and also studied astronomy. His wish was to become an engineer or architect.
For the rest of his career, he never had an official post and thought of himself as self-taught, and his engineer's working in high levels of detailing persisted in all his musical compositions. These changed to a preference for classical music, after his piano teaching gave him Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata. This made the piano his favourite instrument, and in 1946, Axel Borup-Jørgensen returned to Denmark as a student at The Royal Danish Academy of Music, with the piano as his main subject and supplementary lessons in other instruments.
 Another element of his early life which deeply affected his music was the influence of nature's Sweden. A younger composer, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holm Green, said of Sweden "Borup has found its own, poetic beauty. He is a kind of composers poet. He has a Swedish touch in his music, one can almost hear the Swedish forests and the great room and peculiar melancholy that often hovers over Swedish art ". In 1942, the family acquired a small island in a lake on the border between Östergötland and Småland. This gave Borup-Jørgensen the pleasure of walking, cycling and rowing during the summer holidays, and losing himself in the stillness of nature. Even while he was working in Copenhagen, he kept visiting his parents on their Swedish island, maintaining his interest in that country.
After graduating, Borup-Jørgensen became a piano teacher with private students. In 1959, he visited Darmstadt School which every other summer held a two-week International Summer Course for New Music, which became the centre of modern music. He was already interested in the progress of music in Denmark, and he was developing his own interpretation of it. His early compositions were in German Romantic style. Then he moved towards French Impression; next, gathering increasingly complex rhythms with bitonality and then atonality (not serialism).
Looking at Borup-Jørgensen's output, chamber music dominates. There are some vocals but only a few orchestral pieces. The chamber formats are often unusual, involving guitar, percussion, viola, recorder and celeste (harking back to his youth) and similar duets occur in a number of the organ pieces (24), of which 9 are on this disc. Percussion is one of the commonest additions; it appears in three of this SACD's programme, with duets of harpsichord, alto and bass baritone, leaving only two solo and one duet for the organ alone.
The organ chosen for this disc is Vor Freisers Kirke (Our Christ's Church) in Copenhagen, a highly decorated Baroque church, well-known because of its twisted spire reaching skywards. The magnificent façade of the organ case on the west wall of the church is one of the most photographed music instruments in the world. A glorious three-storey organ case contains a superb instrument built by the Botzen brothers in 1696-98. The organ has more than 4000 pipes with 4 manuals and pedal-board. After restoration the entire instrument produces the sound that was heard in the church over 300 years ago.
 However, organist Jens E. Christensen plays Borup-Jørgensen's scores with only a sparse palette of stops overall, mainly a few simple principals such as Diapasons and Flutes.16' and 32' ranks are also sparsely used, except for some more lengthy passages such as 'In Winter' where sometimes the organ battles with the percussion (Track 9). Rather than an organ recital, in this selection, Borup-Jørgensen's pieces are mainly duos, with the organ mostly acting as an accompanying instrument, usually played slowly and with a volume rarely louder than mezzo-forte.
In my opinion, the most expressive works are those with human voices. 'Strophen' op. 39 (1961) takes texts from poet Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Das Buch der Bilder' (The book of Images) and Pia Rose Hansen, a fine alto, gives this contemplative piece a grave, mysterious, languid and beautiful but very slow rendering; it is static music. 'Trilogie' for bass and organ, op. 154.4 (1996) contains two poems by Rilke and the other by Friedrich Nietzsche - Rilke 'Autumn day' and 'O Trees of life' with Friedrich Nietzsche's 'Lonely'. Jacob Bloch is the bass baritone and he is masterful at exploiting the responsive acoustic of the church, for once more the whole piece has to be very slow and the singing utterly miserable in what is a long solo with only short, quiet interpolations from the organ. Danish versions of the German texts are given, but it is a great pity that an English translation was not presented, although I suppose that translating of Rilka's poetry is particularly difficult.
The British-Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani is part of the duet in Für Cembalo und Orgel op. 133.2 (1989). A conversation between the plucked and the wind instruments is carried out in a set of continuous short pieces, some of them thankfully rather faster than usual. Mathias Reumert is well-known as a percussionist, conductor and arranger as well as the leader of ensemble EKKOZONE and his parts are first ('Portal' for percussion and organ op 182, 2009) and last ('Winter Music' for percussion and organ op. 113.2, 1986-7). 'Winter Music' has drawn some notoriety for Borup-Jørgensen; a CD recording has already been marketed (Marco Polo, organist Eva Feldbæk and Gert S. Sørensen). Remarkably it is only a few seconds difference in timing (15:22, Christensen vs. 15:46, Feldbæk),
 Misery, duress and violence seem to be the vision of Winter held by Borup-Jørgensen, followed by some remarkable instructions to Reumert demonstrating his unconventional scores, apparently full of illustrations. The instructions include "sluggishly", "tiredly", "irregularly", "woolly", "vague", "gliding", and all of these appear to be employed.
The Winter gives us a marvellous example of the responsive acoustic captured for recording by former hornist Preben Iwan, now regarded as an internationally famous recording engineer, mixer and producer. By Danish standards, the dimensions of the church are enormous. The height to the ceiling rafters is 36 metres, but the large resonance has been tamed, and it is particularly beautiful around the singers rather than the instruments. Larger drums are well back, so the wide echo they produce gives one a real frisson. Recorded in the DXD audio format (Digital eXtreme Defination) at 352.8 kHz/32 bit, the 5.0 multichannel is splendid, and the stereo comes close.
OUR Records' bright lemon-covered digipak has a well-illustrated booklet in Danish, English and German, where the organist Christensen has contributed an interesting account of working with Borup-Jørgensen as this quiet man "characterized by his focus on minute details of sound and texture”.
 
OUR Records' has an on-going series of Axel Borup-Jørgensen, with most of the pieces on this present SACD being premières. I commend all taking part in further opening his unique style to a wider audience. While respecting Axel Borup-Jørgensen's music on this disc, I confess not to particularly enjoy the music, which in its tendency to slowness, consistent dissonance and extreme detail leaves my mind wandering. From that point of view, I feel that potential buyers should be warned that this is not of the usual organ recital type, although listeners with special interest in hifi recordings might well be interested in the particular sonics of 'Winter Music'. My advice would be to go to Our Record's web site at http://www.ourrecordings.com/releases/Organ-Music. Select the tab "TRACKLIST", and each track has a "Listen" button press this to hear the track. Most unusually, this plays the whole piece.
John Miller and HRAudio.net

10/10/10 "Zeitgenössische Musik vom Feinsten!"
Heinz Braun, 23.11.2016 Klassik heute
23 November 2016
Das kleine, aber feine dänische audiophile Label OUR Recordings engagiert sich seit Längerem intensiv für die Musik Axel Borup-Jørgensens (1924-2012), einem der bedeutendsten skandinavischen Komponisten des vergangenen Jahrhunderts. Nach einer erst jüngst veröffentlichten CD mit Klaviermusik des Komponisten folgt nun eine repräsentative Auswahl seiner Orgelwerke.
Ausgangs- und Endpunkt des Programms bilden zwei Kompositionen für Orgel und Schlagzeug: Portal, ein konzises, doch kraftvoll-monolithisches Eröffnungsstück, das sich Borup-Jørgensen 2009 selbst zum 85. Geburtstag geschrieben hat sowie die über viertelstündige winter music von 1986/87.
Die zwei Solostücke for orgel IV und XI (1983/84 bzw. 1991-94 entstanden) stehen in vielerlei Hinsicht prototypisch für den Stil des Komponisten mit seiner feinsinnigen Auslotung der spezifischen Orgelsonorität, Akkordbrechungen und melodischen Verästelungen. Insbesonders das spätere der beiden Werke beeindruckt durch seine geheimnisvollen, dunkel-gedeckten Farben. Der Zyklus Kalligrafier mit seinen pointilistisch kontrastierenden Miniaturen ergänzt die beiden Solowerke.
In den beiden Instrumentalduos organo per due für zwei Organisten sowie Für Cembalo und Orgel verfolgt Borup-Jørgensen unterschiedliche Ansätze: Während sich im Orgel-Duo explosives Donnergrollen und Klangsplitter im höchsten Register gegenüberstehen, gelingt dem Komponisten in der ungewöhnlichen Kombination von Cembalo und Orgel ein kommunikatives Zwiegespräch, bei dem sich der dunkle Orgelklang mit dem silbrig hellen Cembalo kontrastiert, sich gegenseitig ergänzt und kommentiert.
Eines der frühesten Stücke der CD, die Rilke-Vertonung Strophen aus „Das Buch der Bilder“ von 1961 für Alt und Orgel zählt für mich zu den Höhepunkten des Programms. Die wunderbare Solistin Pia Rose Hansen verleiht diesem kontemplativen Stück den unabdingbaren großen Bogen, ein in sich ruhendes Fließen und eine selbstverständliche, unaufgeregte, nichts wollende Gelassenheit. Noch reduzierter wirkt Borup-Jørgensens Musiksprache in seinen Trilogi: Hier setzt der Komponist drei berühmte deutsche Gedichte (Rilkes „Herbsttag“ und „O Bäume Lebens“ aus den Duineser Elegien sowie Friedrich Nietzsches „Vereinsamt“) für Bass und Orgel. Der Vokalpart mit seinen expressiven, großen Intervallsprüngen und melismatischen Linien wird hier nur ganz selten und äußerst behutsam von der Orgel sekundiert. Der Bariton Jakob Bloch Jespersen reiht sich ein in eine Liste außerordentlicher Interpreten, allen voran der hochsensible Organist Jens E. Christensen, der sich mit einzigartigem Gespür in die Musiksprache Borup-Jørgensens eingefühlt hat. Ebenso erfreulich ist es, dass OUR Recordings
mit dem britisch-iranischen Cembalisten Mahan Esfahani einen der herausragenden Interpreten seines Faches für die Aufnahme gewinnen konnte. Das längste und meines Erachtens ergreifendste Stück steht am Schluss der CD: die 1986/87 komponierte winter music für Schlagzeug und Orgel (Jens E. Christensen hier im Duett mit dem fantastischen Perkussionisten Mathias Reumert). Die Dunkelheit und Gewalt des Winters nimmt mit sich auftürmenden Klangballungen der Orgel und wilden, fast rohen Schlagzeugsalven klingend Gestalt an. Eine starke, erschütternde Musik, die man so leicht nicht vergisst.
Lässt man sich auf sie ein, entfaltet Borup-Jørgensens Klangsprache einen einzigartigen Zauber, dessen Ernsthaftigkeit und Klangsinnlichkeit man sich kaum entziehen kann. Zeitgenössische Musik vom Feinsten! 
Heinz Braun, 23.11.2016 Klassik heute