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Fanfare (US) "A phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening".

November 16, 2017

Colin Clarke

BORUP-JØRGENSEN Portal, op. 1821. For Orgel IV, op. 106. Strophen, op. 392. Kalligrafier, op. 116. Für Cembalo und Orgel, op. 133/23. Organo per due4. Trilogi5. For Orgel XI, op. 141. Winter Music, op. 113/21  Jens E. Christensen, 4Lars Sømod (orgs); 1Mathias Reumert (perc); 2Pia Rose Hansen (mez); 3Mahan Esfahani (hpd); 5Jakob Bloch Jespersen (bass-bar)  OUR SACD 6.220617 (74:54)

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. Fanfare November 29th 2017 Colin Clarke

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