Fanfare 2 (US)- 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.
BORUP-JØRGENSEN “Thalatta! Thalatta!” Marine Skitser. Winter Pieces. Sommer Intermezzi. Passacaglia for Klavier. Regndåbe Interludier. Epigrammer. Miniaturesuite. Praeludier for Klavier. “Phantasiestück” for Celesta • Erik Kaltoft (pn, cel) • OUR RECORDINGS 6.220616 (65:46)
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