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BACH-coverfron-sRGB.jpg "characterized by his focus on minute details of sound and texture”. Performance: 4.5 stars
Sonics (Stereo): 4.5 stars Sonics (Multichannel):5. Stars

November 24, 2016

John Miller

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 Select the tab "TRACKLIST", and each track has a "Listen" button press this to hear the track. Most unusually, this plays the whole piece. Review by John Miller - November 25, 2016
Copyright © 2016 John Miller and

Performance: 4.5 stars
Sonics (Stereo): 4.5 stars
Sonics (Multichannel):5. Stars

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