About this Recording
8.224030 - BORUP-JOSGENSEN: Sommasvit / Nordisk Sommerpastorale

In Sommasvit for string orchestra, composed in 1957, the Swedish background is very close. The title is Swedish (Sommasvit = Sommen suite), the nature scenes have precise references and specific experiences as background: Sommen is a large, forest-fringed lake area in northern Småland, with an inland archipelago of about 300 islands. On one of these the composer had spent his holidays since his schooldays and had gone on long excursions by rowing-boat through the spacious lake landscape. The five brief movements of the suite link nature scenes and weather with the stages of the day. I. Morgon: Svalön (Morning: Swallow Island): High harmonics from two solo violins suggest the morning mist above which the massive rocky island towers, marked by the dominant motif of the movement, a powerful upward leap. II. Middag: Böljeskvalp vid Aspanäs udde (Noon: Waves lapping at Aspanäs headland): The play of the waves with light and sound is represented by chromatic figures with varied rhythms and articulation. III. Afton: Bjänäs (Evening: Bjälnäs): The composer has gone ashore on an autumn evening in a wild, gloomy landscape - heavily tramping music with a dark, falling figure. IV. Natt: Höststorm på Storsjön (Night: Autumn storm on the Great Lake): The wildly agitated music reflects a terrifying experience at night out on the lake in bad weather. V. Epilog (Epilogue): Calm after the storm, evoked by an almost static chorale.

Sommasvit still has a residue of melody in the form of characterizing motifs. In Nordisk Sommerpastorale (Nordic Summer Pastorale) of 1964 this has been reduced to just a few passing hints, only to disappear completely in the last two works on this CD. In 1965, the pastorale, much of it written in the open air in the Swedish summer landscape, won first prize at a composing competition held by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. It was composed for 15 solo string players, 6 woodwind, 4 horns, piano and harp. Harp and piano are played only in the treble register, and there are no low instruments like cello, double bass and bassoon. With this bright ensemble the composer wanted to create an "immediately beautiful" music, an "impressionistic morning mood", passive and immutable in its atmosphere, without drive or expression, like lying on one's back and calmly watching drifting summer clouds. It is all about timbre. The ways of playing the strings are richly differentiated; the piano is played as often directly on the strings as with the keys, and, like the harp, often with brushes. The contours are obscured here and there by various types of deliberately imprecise notation, a phenomenon that becomes more widespread in the later orchestral works. 

Borup-Jørgensen's painterly orchestral style culminates in MARIN. This was composed in 1963-70 - for once for a large orchestra - and can without reservation be called a major work in his oeuvre. The Swedish title means "seascape". The work found its final form in response to a commission from the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, as a follow-up to the first prize awarded in 1965. It was originally planned as a suite of five relatively modest character sketches, but when the commission arrived, the composer had already changed his plans, and the material was now expanded and combined into one continuous process: "The colouring function of the percussion was intensified; the 55 strings were given individual parts. I also placed more emphasis on the stereophonic aspect, especially in the strings, which were particularly suitable for this with their distribution on the platform - for example for "calm sea", where harmonically unchanging sounds are gradually displaced in space, or to create the illusion of seething surf with successive entries of sul ponticello figures. In the present form of MARIN, the piece can more or less be seen as a symphonic poem, a description of the sea in shifting states, from its awakening before dawn to waves, calm, surf and storm, ending in an epilogue-like stillness." Both traditional instrumentation technique and indeterminate notation, including passages of controlled improvisation, playa far more extensive role in MARIN than in the summer pastorale. The treatment of the orchestra is "painterly" throughout, as the finely-honed derails are completely absorbed in the mass effects of flowing colour and movement. But unlike the pastorale, MARIN is dramatically active music with a developmental form saturated with contrasts. 

For a decidedly Nordic nature lyricist like Axel Borup-Jørgensen the dark sides of the seasons and the climate are at least as important as summery idylls. Among his works are innumerable winter scenes, and MUSICA AUTUMNALIS of 1977 depicts the moods and light of late autumn. The work was commissioned by the Zealand Symphony Orchestra and written for a symphonic wind ensemble (23 musicians) with percussion, piano and electronic organ. The techniques are on the whole as in the two preceding orchestral works, the effect something quite different. Particularly characteristic is the use of the electronic organ, played partly with the keys in fixed registers, but just as often in the opposite way, the keys remaining fixed while timbres and intensity are varied by changing the stops. 

The improvisatory element also extends to the role of the conductor, but regardless of all passing freedoms in the interplay and timing, the timbral effects are still meticulously matched. The dark, often rather harsh autumn colours are put into perspective by faraway signals and fanfares. Central to the work, like a heavy, cold cloud cover, is a long, massive, harmonically static sound that oscillates and pulsates in various ways - followed by the misty effect of fragile, floating sounds. Like the earlier works, this too ends with a statically hovering epilogue moving into silence. 

Jan Jacoby, 1995

Translation James Manley

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