Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s music is very special if not strange, yet atmospheric and, at the end, inspiring if not magic
Oliver Fraenzke, Pizzicato, Luxumburg
27 January 2017
Er kam nie wirklich zu internationaler Bekanntheit, der 2012 in hohem Alter verstorbene Däne Axel Borup-Jørgensen. Erst nach seinem Tod wurde man langsam auf ihn aufmerksam, nicht zuletzt durch die Edition Borup-Jørgensen des Labels Our Recordings, das vor allem durch ihren « Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen: Nordic Sound » (Our Recordings 6.220613) mit fünf extra für diesen Anlass komponierten Werken von namhaften Komponisten für Flöte und Streicher für Aufsehen sorgte – Bent Sørensen, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Sunleif Rasmussen, Morgens Christensen und Thomas Clausen steuerten je ein Werk bei.
Borup-Jørgensen in eine Schublade zu ordnen, fällt schwer, da er auf eigenen Pfaden wandelte, sich immer wieder neu erfand und seinen Stil modifizierte. Am ehesten könnte man ihn durch seine stimmungsvoll-flüchtige Atmosphärik vielleicht den Post-Impressionisten nahestellen. Große Geste, Aufbegehren oder triumphale Extraversion wird man vergebens suchen, man findet zarte Tropfen von zerbrechlicher Anmut und surreal erscheinender Eleganz. Wo es keine Expansion gibt, gibt es auch keine zielgerichtete Stringenz, und so zeichnet sich die Musik Borup-Jørgensens eher durch Kreisen oder Umherwandern aus, oft um verschiedene Patterns wandelnd. Die Musik erscheint so fremdartig und ungewohnt, man kann sich kaum heimisch fühlen in diesen Klängen, und doch lädt sie einen auf wunderbar inspirierende Reisen ein und der Hörer kann sich treiben lassen von andeutender Magie.
Fünfundvierzig Jahre lang arbeitete Erik Kaltoft mit dem Komponisten zusammen, dies spiegelt sich unweigerlich in der Musik und ihrer Wiedergabe wider. Mit vollster Souveränität und Selbstverständlichkeit geht Kaltoft an diese Musik heran und stellt sich voll in ihren Dienst. Er blendet die interpretatorische Subjektivität vollkommen aus, so dass der Hörer fast meinen könnte, die Musik spiele aus sich heraus ohne einen ausführenden Pianisten. Alles entsteht aus dem Moment heraus, direkt aus der Stille kommend, in feinst gewachsener Natürlichkeit. In dieser Aufnahme zeigt sich, wie sehr der darbietende Musiker und der Komponist verschmelzen können und welch ein suggestiv fesselndes Ganzes daraus resultieren kann. Oliver Fraenzke, 27.01.2017
Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s music is very special if not strange, yet atmospheric and, at the end, inspiring if not magic. Erik Kaltoft, a long-time collaborator of the composer, fascinates with outstanding and suggestive performances.
Oliver Fraenzke, Pizzicato, Luxumburg

. Erik Kaltoft handles all of Borup-Jørgensen’s sudden twists and turns expertly, revealing a genuine empathy for this music.
The Classical Reviewer
18.September 2016
A new release from OUR Recordings features pianist, Erik Kaltoft who reveals a genuine empathy for the piano works of Axel Borup-Jørgensen
 OUR Recordings www.ourrecordings.com have done much to bring the music of Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012) www.borup-jorgensen.dk to the attention of listeners with a number of recordings already in the catalogue and with more planned.

 Borup-Jørgensen was born in Hjørring in Denmark, but grew up in Sweden. It was the countryside and experience of nature of his childhood in Sweden that became a lifelong inspiration to him. He returned to Denmark to study piano at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and instrumentation with Poul Schierbeck and Jørgen Jersild and was one of the first Danish composers to go to the Darmstadt School. Borup-Jørgensen's works include music for orchestra, chamber music, songs with piano and other instruments.

 OUR Recordings latest release features a selection of his piano music from across his compositional life played by Erik Kaltoft www.facebook.com/erik.kaltoft who not only knew Borup-Jørgensen but benefited from his advice concerning performances of the composer’s music.
         
Thalatta! Thalatta! (The Sea! The Sea!), Op. 127 (1987-88) opens with delicate rising phrases that are repeated before being slowly and subtly varied. Soon dissonant chords appear conjuring vividly the sense of fluidity, droplets of water within rippling flows. Borup-Jørgensen slowly builds some very fine layers, finding the ever changing and multi stranded nature of the sea. He conjures a vision of water that is removed from the violent restlessness of the ocean, a more finely wrought contemplation. Later the music falls to quieter little phrases full of carefully thought out, delicate dissonances before rediscovering the opening, rising phrases to lead to a gentle, quite coda.
 Marine skitser (Marine Sketches) for Klaver, Op. 4b (1949) comprises of six miniatures, opening with a quizzical little motif that is immediately developed through bars of gentle simplicity, with a lovely delicacy. These pieces bring moments that are sometimes reminiscent of Ravel as well as richer more flowing music and a slow thoughtful piece with delicate notes over a deeper piano line.  There is a faster moving sketch with incisive phrases and moments where some lovely chords are developed before this set concludes.

 winter pieces, Op. 30b (1959) is a set of four miniatures the first of which has a sudden, strident opening which is developed through staccato passages. These pieces are full of varying tempi, dynamics and, most importantly pauses that add so much to the feeling of the music. Borup-Jørgensen brings little surprises throughout but always with an overall musical line. This is a terrific collection of pieces lasting just over four minutes in total.

 Delicate phrases open sommer intermezzi (summer intermezzi), Op. 65 (1971) before a series of dissonant chords appear. There are little rising phrases, always with a delicate thoughtfulness. Occasional harsher dissonances appear to disturb the peace but overall the music retains a gentle sense of wonder, a summer pointed up by sudden more focused images, all quite beautifully phrased and shaped by this pianist with a final sudden upward phrase to end.

 Passacaglia for klaver, Op. 2b (1948) opens with fuller, richer chords as it leads ahead through a fine, tonally free melody, only interrupted by more decorative ideas that illuminate the music before it develops its way forward through some broad, firm passages at the end.

 regndråbe interludier (raindrop interludes), Op. 144 (1994) brings a gentle rising motif that is soon subjected to dissonances. Yet the gentle, delicate textures continue, often in little droplets that are repeatedly ‘dripped’ creating some magical harmonies.

 epigrammer (epigrams), Op. 78 (1976) brings more of Borup-Jørgensen’s trademark delicacy and upward rising phrases developed through passages that bring lovely dissonances. There are telling pauses before the music develops some striking, spiky, more dynamic phrases. Later the music finds a walking pace before moving ahead rhythmically. There are more of this composer’s sudden surprises such as when the piano bursts out, high in its register. There are moments when the music that positively sparkles before slowing to separated phrases that bring about the coda.

 Miniaturesuite, Op. 3b (1949) is another early work that brings a collection of five miniature movements or sections lasting in total just under three minutes. It opens purposefully with a fast moving theme that moves around restlessly before soon falling to a slowly meandering theme. There is a faster section that contains hints of Shostakovich in his more manic moments before a slow languid, rather French movement. A fast flowing section brings the coda.

 Præludier for klaver (Preludes for piano), Op. 30a (1958-59) gathers together seven pieces of short duration that move from the opening Prelude with staccato phrases that leap around, through dynamic moments with louder bass chords, a little pause before a sudden outburst as well as sudden rippling phrases. It is the lovely delicate little phrases make the later sudden strong outbursts all the more telling before the Preludes conclude.  

 The unexpected work here is Borup-Jørgensen’s ‘Phantasiestücke’ for celeste, Op. 115 which has all of this composer’s trademark ideas. It opens with rippling upward phrases before stepping forward, repeating the upward chords and developing through some wonderfully delicate passages, finding some lovely sounds, always with the opening phrases in mind. Borup-Jørgensen writes beautifully and naturally for this instrument.

 Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s piano music is shot through with a natural melodic base that underlies whatever he writes. Erik Kaltoft handles all of Borup-Jørgensen’s sudden twists and turns expertly, revealing a genuine empathy for this music.

 The piano sound is perfectly caught in the Concert Hall of the Royal Danish Academy of Music. There are excellent notes and, as usual with OUR Recordings, a nicely produced booklet with colour illustrations

The Classical Reviewer

anybody who makes a serious effort of concentrated listening should end up loving this music. Or, so I would hope. Excellent
Grego Applegate Edwards's, Gapplegate Classical
7.September 2016
I first thought of "cantankerous" as I listened to the Piano Music (OUR Recordings 6.220616) of Axel Borup-Jorgensen. But no, a better phrase might be "courageously wayward." Satie, Alkan and Sorabji come to mind when you hear this well done anthology of Axel's solo piano works spanning the wide period from 1948 to 1994. He sounds more like Satie or Messiaen  than the others, but in the end he sounds like himself and like the others he is in opposition to the prevailing trends in his lifetime. He is post-impressionist in his ambiance, but peculiarly, originally declamatory and sometimes inclined towards ostinatos and structured repetitions without sounding minimalist.

He has a beautifully developed sense of exotic harmonic logic (as did Messiaen) which he puts to brilliant use in his sometimes whimsical, speech-like or other-worldly phraseology. What is also remarkable is how he has stuck very much to his own way and developed it in the course of the 46 years represented by these pieces.

Erik Kaltoft plays the piano (and celeste) role like he was born to it, carefully nuancing what in other hands might sound on occasion clumsy. The music requires a poetic vision and a very sensitive touch to sound properly, it seems to me. Kaltoft delivers with superb performances.

Anyone with an appreciation of piano ambiance and looking for an alternative to Debussy, Satie and Messiaen will in time take to this music, I do believe. But anybody who makes a serious effort of concentrated listening should end up loving this music. Or, so I would hope. Excellent!
Grego Applegate Edwards's, Gapplegate Classical

Kudos to OUR Recordings for bringing this music to the listening public.
Perkustooth, New Music Buff
23. August 2016
I had reviewed another disc of this composer's music on this label here and I must admit that it took me quite a while to meaningfully grasp the music of this too little known Danish composer (1924-2012).  It should be no secret that the Danes have had and continue to have a rich musical culture and have produced quite a number of world class composers and this man is no exception.  However his style, apparently gleaned from his association with the modernists of Darmstadt, can be a tough nut to crack.
As with the aforementioned disc one might require multiple listenings before coming to realize that this man has a unique style and one that bears some serious attention.  This disc of piano music (and one piece for celesta) fills a gap in his recorded repertoire and is an excellent opportunity to see how he works in the genre of keyboard music.
These ten tracks contain works written from 1949 to 1988 so they cover a significant portion of his career and illustrate the development of his style.  Pianist Erik Kaltoft, a longtime associate of the composer, demonstrates interpretive skill as well as virtuosity and dedication in this fascinating survey.
The first (and longest 11:29) piece is Thalatta! Thalatta! (1987-88) and is given the opus number of 127.  The exclamation of the title translates as, "The Sea! The Sea!" and is said to have been spoken by the Greek armies upon reaching the Black Sea during one of their campaigns.  It is an impressionistic piece about the many moods of the sea.  His harmonies are like a modern update of Debussy, a bit more dissonant but providing a similarly soft focused feel.
Continuing with the maritime theme are the 6 miniatures called Marine Sketches (1949) opus 4b.  It is one of the earliest compositions in this collection (along with the Miniature Suite opus 3b, also 1949, on track 8).  Each of the pieces lasts around one minute and there are no track breaks to separate them.  The composer seems to expect that they will always be performed together and with a total time of 6:53, why not?  In contrast to the first piece these contain more melodic contours with less overall dissonance but clearly the same compositional fingerprint.
The four Winter Pieces opus 30b (1959) contain more energetic rhythms but with strategic silences punctuating the overall flow.  They end with a brief epilogue.
From winter we move to another season with the Summer Intermezzi opus 65 (1971) comes back to the sound world of the first track.  Here he experiments with different techniques to expand the language of the keyboard and incorporates the strategic silences of the piece on the former track.
Track 5 contains the earliest piece in this collection, Pasacaglia opus 2b (1948) which seems to suggest some influence of Scriabin.  It is a classic set of variations over the initial bass line and has a rather romantic feel.
Raindrop Interludes opus 144 (1994) is an impressionistic suite with the more dissonant style of his other later pieces.  It is the most recently composed of the recorded selections.
Epigrams opus 78 (1976) at 9:15, is the second longest piece here.  This is one of the most abstract pieces on the disc and demands concentration from both the performer and the listener to perceive delicate statements made with a wide dynamic range.
The Miniaturesuite opus 3b concentrates a praeludium, fantasia, interludium, sarabande and a repeat of praeludium in a brief 2:49.  It is more melodic and less dissonant in keeping with the composer's earlier style.
Praeludier opus 30a (1958-9) are seven pithy and brief preludes.
The last track contains Phantasiestùck opus 115 (1985) written for celesta.  This instrument, forever doomed to familiarity by its use  in Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, has a limited repertoire and this gentle abstract piece is a welcome addition.  It is consistent with the composer's late style using dissonance and silences in an almost meditative and strangely nostalgic piece.
The extensive and useful liner notes are by Trine Boje Mortensen and are printed in both Danish and English (translation by John Irons).  The fine recording and mastering are by Preben Iwan in the fine acoustics of the Royal Danish Academy of Music.  Grateful assistance and input from the composer's daughter Elisabet Selin.
One needs to be cautioned never to take lightly anything produced from this creative country and this album is proof of that.  Kudos to OUR recordings for bringing this music to the listening public.
 
Perkustooth, New Music Buff

Eine willkommene Erweiterung des Horizonts für Pianisten, die sich abseits traditioneller Pfade Anregungen holen wollen
Christopher Schlüren, Klassik Heute, Germany
13 August 2016
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012) war einer der bedeutendsten dänischen „Modernisten“ im Schatten der jüngeren Kollegen Per Nørgård, Ib Nørholm und Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. Über die Landesgrenzen ist er kaum bekannt geworden, doch seit seinem Tode beschäftigt sich das Label OUR Recordings intensiv mit seiner Musik im Rahmen der „Edition Borup-Jørgensen“, deren jüngste Veröffentlichung eine repräsentative Auswahl seiner Klaviermusik umfasst. Es spielt Erik Kaltoft, der 45 Jahre lang mit dem Komponisten zusammenarbeitete. Borup-Jørgensen kannte ich bisher vor allem durch seine farbenreich-komplexe Tondichtung Marin für großes Orchester. Seinem ganzen Naturell nach ist er ein Impressionist, der sich in den fünfziger Jahren die dodekaphonischen Verfahrensweisen in der Nachfolge Anton Weberns aneignete und mit einer atmosphärischen Geschlossenheit zum Hören einlädt, die nicht auf zielstrebiger Entwicklung oder dramaturgischen Kontrasten aufgebaut ist. Vorliegende Kompilation gibt einen guten Überblick über seine teils deutlich unterschiedlichen Schaffensphasen. Drei frühen Stücken von 1948-49 folgen zwei experimentell fragmentierende Werke von 1958-59. Die Musik der siebziger Jahre (Sommer intermezzi von 1971 und Epigrammer von 1976) zeigt eine offenkundige Abklärung des Stils, 1985-88 (Phantasiestück für Celesta und das titelgebende Thalatta! Thalatta!) eine zunehmend minimalistische Reduktion, die wechselnde Muster über längere Zeiträume beibehält, und das Regentropfen-Interludium von 1994 bildet den beinahe schon verklärten Abschluss – wobei die CD gar nicht chronologisch, sondern in dieser Hinsicht bunt durcheinander angeordnet ist, was für sinnvolle Kontraste sorgt. Man merkt sofort, dass Borup-Jørgensen ein guter Pianist war, seine Musik ist ganz natürlich für das Instrument geschrieben und weiß, die Register farblich ideal zu nutzen und zu kombinieren. Natürlich ist diese Musik – bis auf die Frühwerke, unter welchen das erste (eine kleine Passacaglia) in seiner so ganz unprätentiösen Schlichtheit bemerkenswert ist, nicht geeignet für Hörer, die Expressivität und Drama suchen. Es handelt sich vielmehr um permutativ fließende Klangskulpturen, und Erik Kaltoft ist mit diesen Stücken so tief vertraut und auch pianistisch so souverän, dass man durchaus von einer authentisch autoritativen Aufnahme, von einer berechtigten Referenz sprechen darf. Auch Flügelabstimmung, Raumakustik und klangtechnische Abbildung sind vorzüglich, und der Booklettext von Trine Boje Mortensen informiert grundlegend und essenziell. Eine willkommene Erweiterung des Horizonts für Pianisten, die sich abseits traditioneller Pfade Anregungen holen wollen. 
Künstlerische Qualität: 9
Klangqualität: 10
Gesamteindruck: 9
Christopher Schlüren, Klassik Heute, Germany

It has been an absolute pleasure exploring this music.
Marc Medwin, Fanfare US
31 July 2016
The present disc constitutes my introduction to this underappreciated Danish composer. Doubtless, it will introduce many others to his often introspective but miles-deep piano music, as only a few of the pieces have been recorded before and given the excellence of the performances and documentation.
The pieces span the forty-five years from 1949-1994, detailing the composer’s development in light of more general developments in music history. Erik Kaltoft, who knew and worked with the composer, mentions Webern as a formative influence in the 1950s, and indeed, there is some Webern in the rapidity with which textures and speed change in a piece such as “Thalatta! Thalatta!” from 1987-88, not to mention in the music’s brevity. Yet, the structures themselves are not Webernian at all. Rather, I hear some Messiaenic clusters and arpeggiations replacing Second Viennese School counterpoint. What, then, would explain those gorgeous and basically repeated gestures in the second half of the work, almost minimalist in structure if not in intent? They morph, but only gradually, as hypnotic as they are diverse. Kaltoft’s colorful pianism is perfectly judged and executed as the wave-like arpeggios fragment, slow down and ultimately disintegrate into their component parts, so similar to those that commenced the work.
Considerably more Webernian, at least in terms of articulation and sudden dynamic shift if not in density or harmony, are the “Winter Pieces,” composed a decade later. It is as if, like Jørgensen’s use of baroque forms earlier in his career, he is bending music history to his will, not with anything approaching dictatorial malevolence but with reverence and homage in the service of his own language. The final pieces he composed for piano, his 1994 “Raindrop Interludes,” address this duality. Sounding very much like “Thalatta! Thalatta!” in terms of opening pitch material and execution, there is certainly reference made to both Chopin and Scriabin in the interplay of title and pitch intervals. Those attacks of varying length from the late 1950s are still present, but shades of sound and silence have become more subtly nuanced, repetition and transformation balanced in both regular and irregular concision.
It has been an absolute pleasure exploring this music, whose overriding aesthetic, beyond its exploratory rigor, is one of all-encompassing beauty and ultimate serenity. The many opus numbers (the last is op. 144) speak to a long and productive career.  Our Recordings is poised to release more Borup-Jørgensen this year, a very tantalizing prospect given the superb quality of all aspects of this disc. 
Marc Medwin, Fanfare US

Warmly recommended to fans of contemporary keyboard music.
David DeBoor Canfield
July 15 2016
I first became familiar with the music of Axel Borup-Jørgensen back in the LP era, when I came across some Danish recordings containing such works as his Winterpieces, Nordic Summer Pastoral, and Music for Percussion and Viola. Nevertheless, this long-lived (1924-2012) composer was not particularly well-represented on LP, and so I’m glad to see some continuing attention paid to his music in the CD era. Since he composed a good 250 works, the CD companies will have a fair amount of work ahead of them to get any significant portion of his output into the hands of collectors. This disc, containing 10 of his works for keyboard (nine for piano and one for celesta) is certainly a good start. Interestingly, Borup-Jørgensen was one of the first Danish composers to attend the Darmstadt School, but never composed any serial music. Pianist Erik Kaltoft has had a 45-year history with the composer, and so his present performances may said to have the stamp of authority. Apparently, he has performed at least some of them in the presence of their author.
            “Thalatta! Thalatta!” opens the recital, and begins with a series of upward arpeggios. These are, mind you, not your major triad broken chords, but a subtly shifting sequence of exotic sonorities. It’s not Minimalism, especially with the interjections after a minute or so of new, block-chordal material and other types of figuration. Cluster-like chords also permeate this piece in a number of places Its title comes from an exclamation purportedly uttered by ancient Greek sailors when they reached the Black Sea. I don’t hear rolling waves, but perhaps some glint of sunlight reflecting from them. Marine Sketches follows, suggesting that its composer was drawn to the subject of the sea. I’m not too surprised, given that Denmark is surrounded by water on three sides, and is even divided by a large channel. Written 40 years before “Thalatta!”, the harmonic style of the piece is more tonally focused, and even seems to be centered on the tonality of G. Each of the six sketches is a small character piece, and these may or may not (the notes are coy on the point) reflect a particular aspect of the sea. Incidentally, Borup-Jørgensen’s major orchestral work is the sea-inspired Marin, Marin.
            winter pieces hails from 1959, ten years after the Sketches, and consists of four brief movements and an epilog. In this work, silence plays an especially important role. I guess there must a lot of stillness in Danish winter scenes. In between the silences are seemingly random clusters of notes (or are the silences in between the clusters?), but shortly into the piece, the listener realizes that these “random” sequences are actually nothing of the sort, but form a tapestry, where some of the pictorial representation on it is obscured. One can almost see the icicles hanging from the trees in this frigid work. sommer intermezzi deals with a warmer scene, and shows some similarities in its structure, including the upward arpeggiated figuration, to “Thalatta!” The program notes refer to there being enchantment in the air in this work, and that seems as good a description to me as any.
            The Passacaglia, dating from 1948, is the earliest work in this recital—the composer was but 24 years of age when he wrote this Baroque-inspired work. Typical in works in this genre, a sequence of notes is iterated and then forms the basis for a series of variations. The harmonies are exquisite, and the work builds up to an impressive climax. raindrop interludes (Borup-Jørgensen seems to like titles in lower case) is a rather pointillistic work, perfectly suited to the portrayal of raindrops, although I must say these drops seem rather large in size. The notes state that Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude hovers in the background, but I didn’t hear any resemblance to that work, or anything else by Chopin. Nevertheless, the composer has written an evocative nature piece here.
            epigrammer (epigrams) is similar in its effect to the preceding work, with its alternation of silence and sound, and once again the upward arpeggios make their appearance. The work is quite austere and foreboding, and sounds as though there ought to be a program attached. Miniaturesuite is another early work, contemporaneous with Marine Sketches. Accordingly, its style is quite a bit more tonal than all of the works in this recital that date from the 1950s or later (doubtless occasioned by his studies at Darmstadt). The Suite makes its statement in terse fashion in five brief movements lasting altogether less than three minutes. Borup-Jørgensen’s Preludes for Piano are opus-mates of his winter pieces, and consequently date from 1958-9. These seven preludes vary a good bit in their forms of expression, but all evince clarity of texture, and make an impression through their extreme range of dynamics. These sound difficult to play, and probably are, but Kaltoft whips them off seemingly effortlessly.
            The recital closes with Phantasiestück for celesta, and the very nature of the instrument immediately transports the listener to another musical realm. Once again, one hear’s Borup-Jørgensen’s trademark upward arpeggios and dripping sounds, but heard on the celesta they assume an entirely different character.
            The piano artistry of Erik Kaltoft must be applauded. These works need a first-rate pianist to bring across, and he does, superbly. His touch and timing is perfectly tuned to the temperament of the music, and I doubt that anyone else will make a better case for this music. The recorded piano sound is forward and very lifelike. Warmly recommended to fans of contemporary keyboard music. 
David DeBoor Canfield

. Recommended, even to—no, especially to—those who already have the earlier release.
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare US:
1 July 2016
An image I often find helpful when listening to a Axel Borup-Jørgensen piece is of a picture which, when approached, is revealed to be made up of a multitude of smaller pictures, each as exquisitely wrought as the larger image. Given pianist Erik Kaltoft’s description of the minute details of touch and subtle dynamic differentiation, all meticulously notated in scores he describes as “calligraphed,” I suspect it is not a bad generalization. It seems particularly useful when approaching this composer’s piano music. These works, written at various points throughout his long composing career, may vary according to the focus of his work at the time, but all are distinguished by a Ravelian obsession with detail and craftsmanship.
Unlike Ravel, his perfectionism did not result in a particularly small output, except among works for solo piano, of which, we are told, these represent the major portion. There were, Kaltoft observes, many more which were never finished. With these few, though, and the unique Phantasiestücke for celesta, we can trace the development of his compositional voice from the late-Romantic and Impressionistic chromaticism of the music of his 20s, to his Webern-inspired Expressionist experiments of the 1950s, prior to his trips to Darmstadt in 1959 and 1962, to the new simplicity-inspired, atonal, but never serial works of the 1970s, to the more consciously expressive works of his later maturity. Along the way, Borup-Jørgensen was influenced by avant-garde literature as much as avant-garde music. In particular, it was the austere Swedish poetry of Gunnar Björling as much as any meeting or sojourn to Germany that decided the direction his music took in the 50s and 60s. And like Danish composer Vagn Holmboe, he was deeply affected by nature, endeavoring to compose music that exists and develops as nature does. Hence he has the sea shimmering or swelling in works like Marine Sketches and Thalatta! Thalatta! quite aside from any feelings they evoke. And winter and summer are made sound experiences in Winter Pieces and Summer Intermezzi rather than being recreations of the composer’s reaction to them.
Sheer virtuosity is less important to performing this music—although not wholly unnecessary—than poetic restraint, and Kaltoft’s cool dispassion is an important quality of these performances. Yet, even in the most severe passages, he is unfailingly lovely of tone. Another Danish pianist, Erik Skjoldan, recorded five of these pieces for the Point label back in 1995, when that recording, and a Dacapo release of organ works, was about all that was available in the U.S. to represent the Danish composer’s work. First impressions often stick, and I am quite fond of his much freer, almost improvisatory, way with the five works he performs. He almost invariably takes greater time—sometimes for slower tempos, but as often to add meaningful pauses—and he offers a greater dynamic range. I have no idea if the composer had a preference for this or for the more literal and subdued approach of Kaltoft. Skjoldan was chosen to perform with Borup-Jørgensen at a concert celebrating the composer’s 80th birthday. Kaltoft writes in his notes of the many opportunities he had for close study with the composer.
No matter: the best art invites many approaches, and I am pleased to now be able to experience two visions of these pieces. Not only does this new release offer five works not currently in the discography of this important composer, it does so in OUR Recordings superb DXD recording, which creates an image of a piano in a supportive space as well as I have ever experienced. There are superb, informative notes in a lovely booklet. Recommended, even to—no, especially to—those who already have the earlier release
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare US: