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8.224129 - BENTZON, J.: Chamber Music

Jørgen Bentzon had his inrernarional breakthrough as a composer with Sonatine pour flûte, clarinette et basson Op, 7. The work was composed in May-August 1924 and was given its first performance at the society Dansk Koncert-Forening on 25th February 1925. It is dedicated to the Danish Wind Quintet, also known as the Wind Quintet of 1921, and the first performance was played by three of the musicians of the quintet: Holger Gilbert-Jespersen, flute; Aage Oxenvad, clarinet; and Knud Lassen, bassoon - all at the time also members of the Royal Danish Orchestra. It was the same musicians who in 1927 performed the sonatina at the ISCM World Music Days in Frankfurt am Main, where it aroused deserved attention. The three movements of the sonatina are simple in their structure: the first movement is in sonata form, the second in ABA form, and the final and third movement is a regular rondo with a coda based on the main theme of the movement. The strong ties with Classical theory of form are also evident in the texture, which is highly polyphonic and also exhibits many melodic sequences. The two-bar structure that is particularly frequent in the final movement gives the work a certain mosaic-like character. One strong unifying element in the sonatina is the emphasis on the interval of a fourth.

Divertimento in One Movement for violin, viola and violoncello Op. 2 is from the spring of 1921 and was first performed at a pupils’ concert at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen on 3rd June the same year. This trio movement shows the clear influence of Benrzon’s teacher Carl Nielsen and exhibits an opulent sonority that Bentzon was soon to abandon for a personal succinct idiom. In the summer of 1921 Bentzon composed another trio movement, which was performed in 1922 along with the divertimento. But probably because of the stylistic differences, as pointed out by Morten Topp, the idea of a full string trio was abandoned and ever since the divertimento movement has formed the whole of opus 2.

The Intermezzo Op. 24 for violin and clarinet is dedicated to the German composer and music teacher Ernst-Lothar von Knort, who was deeply involved in the mid-1920s in the German Volksmusikschule movement, and whom Bentzon had met in Heidelberg in

1927 in connection with his participation in the above-mentioned ISCM festival in Frankfurt am Main. The Intermezzo was begun in the autumn of 1933 and is end-dated 7th January 1934. It was first performed at the society Det Unge Tonekunstnerselskab on 26th October 1934 by Gerhard Rafn, violin, and Aage Oxenvad, clarinet. The composition is a typical example of Bentzon’s urge to let the instruments express themselves in keeping with their own natural sonorities and as such is a fine example of his character polyphony.

Mikrofoni No. l Op. 44 must have been conceived, as the numbering suggests, as the first chamber music work in a series. It is distinctive both in the ensemble, consisting of a baritone, flute, violin, cello and piano, and in the choice of text, that is the short verse lines probably written by Bentzon himself. Mikrofoni No. 1 was finished on 9th October 1939 and is dedicated to the composer’s wife, Karen Bentzon.

Bentzon’s Variazioni interrotti Op. 12 was composed in 1925-26 and dedicated to Poul Schierbeck. The work, which combines two woodwinds (clarinet and bassoon) with a stting trio, was first performed at a composition evening on 16th Match 1927 by Aage Oxenvad, Knud Lassen, Gerhard Rafn, Axel Jørgensen and Paulus Bache. Jørgen Bentzon’s close friend Finn Høffding wrote as follows in an article in the periodical Musik in 1967 about Variazioni interrotti: “The title of the work refers to the fact that the suite of variations, after the ninth variation with its waning additions, leads to an interruption that brings an independent, contrasting middle section where the string trio plays alone for a long period. The clarinet only enters at the point where the string trio begins to exhibit features that recall the motion of the theme; the bassoon only participates towards the end of the contrasting section at a dynamic peak with the full-sounding low B flat forte fortissimo (the other instruments only have forte) to announce the turning-point that ushers in the resumption of the theme and a new, expanded set of variations that end in a coda combining elements of the theme with elements from the contrasting section in shifting tempi. The theme, which enters solo in the clarinet, is a stroke of serendipity in its roundedness and pithiness.”

Claus Røllum-Larsen, 1999

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