Written by Ronald Comber
Nordic Suite for String Orchestra
arr. Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen
One of the finest, most dynamic of the younger string quartets in the world today, the Danish String Quartet has made their mark in the classical realm for the vibrant brilliancy of their performances and their recordings. In the last few years, however, they have become as well- known beyond the classical realm for their performances and recordings of string quartet arrangements of Danish and Scandinavian folk music. Exquisitely crafted to present both the dynamism and the essential purity of the music, these arrangements by first violin Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen have delighted and inspired music lovers from around the world.
In today’s work, Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen has rearranged five melodies from the Quartet’s two cross-over albums, Wood Works and Last Leaf, capturing the essence of Scandanavian folk music in the broader ambience of a string orchestra.
Sound and Simplicity – Seven Pillars of Music for Accordion and Symphony Orchestra
Poul Ruders (1970- )
We are fortunate to share in this commission with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra for a new work by the brilliant Danish composer, Poul Ruders. An artist with an amazingly broad range, from the most intimate to the most heroic, Ruders has written music in practically every genre in the course of his long career.
Originally trained as an organist, Poul Ruders studied orchestration with Karl Aage Rasmussen and first came t9o the public’s attention in the mid -1960s and has grown a remarkable career ever since.
Of this new work he writes:
“All music is sound, but not all music is simple. Simplicity is a virtue, especially in the arts, a fact which becomes increasingly and inescapably obvious to me the older I get. In Sound and Simplicity four out of the seven movements are very simple (as in the absence of any structural and metric complexity) indeed, in fact the second movement Trance, a sustained chord, employs only four notes, but gradually presented over three octaves.
“Only two of the seven titles are related to a given literary text. Rain is a musical reflection on a couple of lines from Danish writer Arthur Krasilnikoff, the novel The Eye of the Whale (from the chapter entitled Rain) – here in my translation from the Danish: “But best of all were the sounds from the drops. All the myriad sounds with which a drop could touch a leaf, a twig, a stone, gravel, the cement on the stairs, the clothesline, the roof, as if the rain was playing a single, incredible instrument…”
“I composed the fourth Pillar of Music upon having read these mesmerizing lines by Doris Lessing: “The air was full of dust and of smoke. The sky was a yellowish swirl with dark smoke full of black bits pouring across it, and the sun was only a lighter place in the smoke.” (from Mara and Dann, 1999
“Otherwise the listener is completely free to contemplate what could possibly be hiding behind the titles Trance, Haiku, Song-link, Twilight and Wolf Moon…
“Needless to say, the full title of my composition is lifted and slightly twisted from two literary classics. Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility and T.E.Lawrence (of Arabia): Seven Pillars of Wisdom. But only that – a nod and a bow from me…
“Sound and Simplicity marks the final panel in what could be called ‘The Accordion Trilogy’: Serenade on the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean (accordion and string quartet) then Songs and Rhapsodies (accordion and wind quintet) and finally Sound and Simplicity.”
Poul Ruders, July 2018
Symphony No. 5 in E Flat, Op. 82
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
In the course of a long and fairly varied career, Sibelius only wrote seven Symphonies, and yet within those relatively few works he evolved an almost cosmic distillation of spiritual truth. From the sub-Tchaikovskian world of his First Symphony of 1899, through the new-found subtleties of the Second to the ever increasing clarity of the Symphonies that followed, Sibelius achieved an almost surgical precision in his art, ultimately made possible through form and inspiration becoming one entity. The proof of his artistic success can be found not only in the progressive concision and internal logic of each progressive score, but in the consistent reduction in the forces that he employed. The Third, Fourth and Fifth Symphonies are scored for a classically- sized orchestra, though they play much larger.
Sibelius started to work on his Fifth Symphony in 1912 to honour a commission by the Finnish government for a new major work to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. He was happy to oblige, but he soon began to have difficulties and doubts. After the commission was announced and he had made it public that he was going to write a new Symphony, he was startled and the aggrieved be the number of critics, both professional and amateur, who openly mocked him for continuing to write music is such an old-fashioned form. And then, he began to experience qualms about the structure of the work, leading him down several blind alleys – which had rarely happened to him in his prime.
Over the next two years Sibelius assembled enough thematic material to create two Symphonies, though he didn’t fully appreciate it at first, and by 1914 he had begun to distill his material into the Fifth Symphony. The rest of the themes went into the Sixth Symphony somewhat later. The work was in four movements and was completed the next year well in time for the celebratory concert. The first performance was a complete triumph with chastened critics declaring it a masterpiece, but Sibelius was not satisfied, withdrawing the work after only one performance. He was determined to create a work of even greater concision, in the process recasting the first two movements into one.
The second performance took place in December of 1916, winning accolades all around, but Sibelius knew what he wanted now, and reworked the Symphony one last time, creating the work we know today.
The first movement only subtly displays its bipartite nature –a fusion of opening movement and Scherzo, the timeless nobility of the music is so organically worked out that the sudden shift in both tempo and rhythm goes almost unmarked.
The Andante second movement is kept deliberately pale by way of contrast, in order for it to lead gently but inexorably to the spectacularly driving Finale, an Allegro molto.
The last movement, so organically constructed as to defy normal analysis, simply seethes with great ideas, from the astonishing double Exposition at the beginning to the brilliant Coda at the end. The movement, monumental in its vision, completely transcends the orchestral resources of its scoring as it builds to a glorious conclusion.