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BACH-coverfron-sRGB.jpg (UK) - a treat, in other words. What's stopping you?

March 23, 2018

Graham Rickson (UK)
“Danish composer Borup-Jørgensen was a genuine talent, a likeable maverick with an acute ear”
Axel Borup-Jørgensen: Marin Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Sôndergård (OUR Recordings)
The physical effort involved in composing Marin was a huge strain on the Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012). This ear-stretching musical seascape was made possible by its creator winning a prize in the mid-1960s, the reward including a commission for a large orchestral piece to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in 1970. Borup-Jørgensen delivered, in spades: a shaggy monsterpiece with the orchestral strings divided into 55 parts, using something referred to, mysteriously, as "optical notation". Making a fair copy took the composer over 1000 hours, the process entertainingly described by his daughter in the booklet. A young Herbert Blomstedt conducted the premiere, following a score with pages so enormous that an ingenious means of turning them soundlessly had to be devised. You couldn't make it up. Still, this handsomely recorded new performance of Marin with the same orchestra under Thomas Søndergård is a triumph. It sounds like nothing else you'll have heard, 19 minutes of deep rumblings, dissonant note clusters and pregnant silences. Importantly, it does really suggest a vast, swelling ocean. We’re not a million miles away from the stormier bits of Debussy’s La Mer or Sibelius's Oceanides. The recording comes with an accompanying DVD including Morten Bartholdy’s CGI animated realisation of Marin, an entertainingly crazed vision of an undersea world, its denizens based on the composer's own drawings. I listened to the work before watching the film and was anticipating something darker and murkier: the crystalline brightness of the artwork came as a surprise. Still good to have though, as is the bonus documentary about Borup-Jørgensen. Which suggests that he was a genuine talent, a likeable maverick with an acute ear, able to analyse a work by Webern using graphics rather than words. It's touching to see him recalled so fondly by fellow musicians.
Marin’s vastness seems to have been a blip, Borup-Jørgensen generally preferring to write on a smaller scale. The couplings are fascinating: 1989’s Für Cembalo und Orgel (with harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani) is bewilderingly brilliant, as are two pieces for solo recorder. The second of them, Pergolato, was the composer’s last work, an elegant, melodic farewell. The disc closes with Coast of Sirens, soprano Bodil Gümes’ multitracked vocals heard against a shimmering chamber backdrop. The whole package is handsomely designed and well-annotated: a treat, in other words. What's stopping you? by Graham Rickson, Saturday, 24 March 2018ørgensen-mahler-philippe-grisvard-johannes-pramsohler

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