Author Topic: Bent Sørensen  (Read 8873 times)

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kentel

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Bent Sørensen
« on: January 06, 2010, 02:53:00 PM »
Bent Sørensen is one of my favorite composers, and as there seems to be no thread about him here, I thought I could start a new one...

Well, Sørensen is Danish, born in 1958 and an ex-pupil of Per Nørgård the Great (quite a good reference for a beginning). He writes in a style rather close to George Benjamin's, with an extreme care of the resonnance, the timbre and the color of each instrument. The atmospheres are deeply influenced by Poe and Baudelaire : somewhere between dream and nightmare, beauty and evil, very aesthetic and almost sophisticated - always beautiful.

Here are a few cd's :




Violin Concerto "Decaying Gardens" (1993) : I discovered Sørensen's music with this amazing violin concerto :
I was in fact very sensitive to the climate  and the evocation of these strange and sinister "dying gardens" which I imagine with big trees loosing slowly their died yellow and red blades. The orchestration is also quite impressive, with the violin playing at the same heights as the orchestra all the time, and the incredible feeling of fear and dispear of the third mvt with its furious ostinato is incredibly expressive.

The Echoing Garden for voice & orchestra (1992) : sounds like the ghostly echoes of this strange garden. Another great piece with a cold, precise and beautiful orchestra.



This cd is one of the bests  : every single piece is great. One couldn't find a better starting point.

Minnewater (1988) : delicate and swaying like ripples on the water - amazingly evocative, magic and anxious.

Sirenengesang (with voice) : mournful moans of strings; you could almost hear the sirens through the mists.

Shadowland (1989) :  Another masterpiece. A clear and microcosmic style, with an impressive sense of details. Very sophisticated, and contrary to what the title could involve, very luminous. His shadowland sounds like a dream.

The Deserted Churchyard (1990)  : Here again, Sørensen proves to be a true sound genius : glockenspiel, bells, flute like butterflies, distant strings in the background, mysterious piano... which ends in a sort of moan from beyond the grave.

Clairobscur (1987) : aquatic ripples of clarinet - very poetic and subtle.



Birds and Bells, for trombone & orchestra (1997): not quite a concerto, as the trombone player is almost a part of the orchestra itself. Sometimes contemplative, sometimes humoristic (with a funny wow-wow trumpet ostinato in the 2nd mvt), always accurate, precise and written with a fanatic sense of details.

The Lady and the Lark, for viola & orchestra (1997): not quite a concerto either. One of my favorite, it just takes your breath away. Pure aestheticism.

The Bells of Vineta, for solo trombone (1990): this one is a little bit too experimental for my taste.

The Mask of the Red Death, for piano (1990) : after a short story by Edgar A. Poe (which I highly recommand if you didn't read it yet). Unfortunately, Sørensen who has written so amazingly beautiful pieces in the spirit of Poe, is here rather uninspired and far below the genius of the writer with this Ligeti-like little piece.



The String Quartets : in spite of the very good interpretation of the Arditti String Quartet, I think this cd is one of the less interesting. The 3 String Quartets were composed between 83 and 87, at a time when the composer had not found his personnal sound. They sound dull and gray. Moreover, Rasmussen's quartets on the same cd are not very good either (at least in my opinion).

Offline Brewski

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2010, 03:18:42 PM »
Thanks for the excellent post on Sørensen, whose work I don't know that well.  I am pretty sure I have the Bridge CD with Speculum Musicae called The New Danes with The Deserted Churchyards, but don't recall if I've listened to it much.  :-[  Also, I hear a good bit of choral music and recall some of his work in that area, but I don't have a strong image of his style.  Your list gives me some ideas, though. 

--Bruce
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Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Offline some guy

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2010, 03:44:37 PM »
Yes, thanks kentel. I'd never noticed the Shadowland or the ECM CDs. I'll have to buy those right now.

I have the other ones you mentioned, and I'd like to put a good word in for the Arditti album, which I bought because I buy every Arditti album I see, and which I play over and over again, because I like the Sørensen and Rasmussen quartets.

Sean

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2010, 03:33:34 AM »
Hello kentel, I just borrowed the Birds and bells CD- will give it my best attention.

kentel

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2010, 03:57:08 AM »
Yes, thanks kentel. I'd never noticed the Shadowland or the ECM CDs. I'll have to buy those right now.

I have the other ones you mentioned, and I'd like to put a good word in for the Arditti album, which I bought because I buy every Arditti album I see, and which I play over and over again, because I like the Sørensen and Rasmussen quartets.

Then you should love the other cd's :) Rasmussen is not quite my cup of tea; except maybe his Italian Concerto. . As for Sørensen's quartets, the Arditti are sure great, no problem, but in comparison with what Sørensen did later, I think it's far below. But that's only a question of feelings,and I've often heard good comments about these quartets.

kentel

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2010, 04:01:26 AM »
Hello kentel, I just borrowed the Birds and bells CD- will give it my best attention.

Hello Sean; I'm looking forward to hear your impressions - especially about the Lady and the Lark and the Birds and Bells, as the 2 other pieces are not that good, I think.

Gilles

kentel

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2010, 04:05:00 AM »
Thanks for the excellent post on Sørensen, whose work I don't know that well.  I am pretty sure I have the Bridge CD with Speculum Musicae called The New Danes with The Deserted Churchyards, but don't recall if I've listened to it much.  :-[  Also, I hear a good bit of choral music and recall some of his work in that area, but I don't have a strong image of his style.  Your list gives me some ideas, though. 

--Bruce

Curiously, I don't know any of his choral works. There is this vocal one I've heard once; As far as I can remember it was a very fine piece but I should listen to it again. Nørgård's little opera on the same cd is great : creepy and funny.



(Den lille Havfrue means The Little Mermaid)
--Gilles

snyprrr

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2010, 10:24:42 AM »
I, too, have enjoyed the Arditti album. The Rasmussen is,...eh,...I don't like it, but I like the "boring" Sorensen. I also only like the Italian Concerto by R. That's a great little piece, escpecially the Castiglioni section (also one of my favs).

The rest of Sorensen sounds evocative.

kentel

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2010, 02:13:49 PM »
The Rasmussen is,...eh,...I don't like it, but I like the "boring" Sorensen. I also only like the Italian Concerto by R. That's a great little piece, especially the Castiglioni section (also one of my favs).

There is another piece by Rasmussen named "Three Friends" with a quite similar atmosphere, maybe you've heard it; it's on this cd with the violin concerto :



à propos Castiglioni : there is a young french composer, Bruno Mantovani, whose language is deeply influenced by his, especially here :



Personally I don't like it very much, as he seems to focus too much on the very small details at the expense of the cohesion of the whole piece. It's very shattered.  It works with Castiglioni because he wrote short pieces. I feel the same for Sciarrino's sonatas.

But I think that the aesthetically closest composer to Sørensen is Benjamin.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2010, 02:16:36 PM by kentel »

Sean

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2010, 07:25:42 AM »
kentel, I can have limited enthusiasm for this music- it's fairly unpretentious and unobtrusive, an example of the soundscapes of a number of composers including Wolff, Pintscher and Neuwirth, but basically more rummaging around the ruins of the post-tonal landscape by composers who obviously have limited grasp of what art is.

kentel

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2010, 09:12:56 AM »
kentel, I can have limited enthusiasm for this music- it's fairly unpretentious and unobtrusive, an example of the soundscapes of a number of composers including Wolff, Pintscher and Neuwirth, but basically more rummaging around the ruins of the post-tonal landscape by composers who obviously have limited grasp of what art is.

Hi Sean, thank you for your reaction :)

I understand your limited enthusiasm ; but not the connection with Neuwirth nor Pintscher : I think that they write in a completely different style (post-serial I would say), and that the "timbre" or "sound" question is out of their range. As a macter of fact, I dont' like their music that much.

As to me, the connection is more relevant with Benjamin, Sciarrino, Murail, Lachenmann, Nono etc; that kind of "sound" composer, interested in unexpected orchestral compositions and roughly orbiting around the spectral aesthetics initiated by Scelsi. You're right when you talk about "soundscape" : that's what Sørensen's works are :  you don't seem to be fanatic of the idea, but I think that there's a fair amount of 20th century's masterpieces which are "only" soundscapes eg static and descriptive.

--Gilles
« Last Edit: January 09, 2010, 09:26:47 AM by kentel »

kentel

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2010, 09:23:55 AM »
but basically more rummaging around the ruins of the post-tonal landscape by composers who obviously have limited grasp of what art is.

As I'm not a native English speaker, I fear not to understand quite well what you mean here . "post-tonal" is a gross term, which embraces a significant number of composers : could you be more specific about who you're thinking about when you talk about "the ruins of the post-tonal landscape" ?

--Gilles

Offline Guido

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2010, 10:03:12 AM »
obviously have limited grasp of what art is.
Err... I think you can safely assume that they know what art is... I know you hate academicism so I'm sure you're not going to limit the people who 'know what art is' to the musicologists and philosophers (which is the angle that your general satements about art and music seem to be coming from).
Geologist.

The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away

Sean

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2010, 10:32:09 AM »
Hello kentel/ Gilles, at least you're a listener, like me it seems, and have tried a few names.

Quote
As to me, the connection is more relevant with Benjamin, Sciarrino, Murail, Lachenmann, Nono etc; that kind of "sound" composer, interested in unexpected orchestral compositions and roughly orbiting around the spectral aesthetics initiated by Scelsi.

Nono's a fair comparison and maybe a little Sciarrino but I wouldn't agree about the others- you may know different works to me though... Scelsi is a much more interesting figure, who I might compare with Ustvolkskaya's unexpected intensity...

Murail has done some vaguely interesting work around post-Messiaen harmonic thinking but again nothing that's going to last.

Quote
You're right when you talk about "soundscape" : that's what Sørensen's works are :  you don't seem to be fanatic of the idea, but I think that there's a fair amount of 20th century's masterpieces which are "only" soundscapes eg static and descriptive.

I'm very interested in soundscapes when they make overall aesthetic logic as well as the pink fluff of the moment, but this is only seriously possible in tonality.

The repeated use of the muted trumpet or whatever it is by Sorensen is a bit obvious and boring...


Sean

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2010, 10:35:10 AM »
Gilles

As I'm not a native English speaker, I fear not to understand quite well what you mean here . "post-tonal" is a gross term, which embraces a significant number of composers : could you be more specific about who you're thinking about when you talk about "the ruins of the post-tonal landscape" ?

The whole lot of the bastards- and I know music by most of them.

Sean

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2010, 10:37:06 AM »
Err... I think you can safely assume that they know what art is... I know you hate academicism so I'm sure you're not going to limit the people who 'know what art is' to the musicologists and philosophers (which is the angle that your general satements about art and music seem to be coming from).

I think you're getting a little confused here Guido- the likes of Sorensen are the direct product of the idiot academic establishment.

kentel

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2010, 11:27:07 AM »
Nono's a fair comparison and maybe a little Sciarrino but I wouldn't agree about the others- you may know different works to me though... Scelsi is a much more interesting figure

IN ANY CASE Scelsi is more interesting :)

Murail has done some vaguely interesting work around post-Messiaen harmonic thinking but again nothing that's going to last.

I wouldn't say that : while staying at the Villa Medicis, Murail began a long and lasting friendship with Scelsi, that he in fact "discovered". At this time France was completely in the shadow of the Boulezian Academia, and Scelsi was roughly unknown. His "spectral" style emerged finally from his growing interest and admiration for Scelsi, and the impact of Messiaen on his music is minor in comparison with Scelci's - except maybe in his first pieces.

I'm very interested in soundscapes when they make overall aesthetic logic as well as the pink fluff of the moment, but this is only seriously possible in tonality.

Well... I agree if we're talking about serialism, post-serialism or any kind of structuralist-oriented asthetics, where the mathematics of the work is more important than anything else. BUT I disagree for the rest of atonality : in fact, I feel that tonality creates a movement in a music piece which prevent it from being static. Thus, it cannot be fully descriptive. You seem to apreciate Scelsi : Scelsi is definitely NOT tonal.

Maybe I'm not very clear and should try to give a few examples : among the most descriptive composers I know, Takemitsu for ex. or Dutilleux, are not tonal. But ok, maybe you don't like their music either - the debate is interesting anyway :)

--Gilles
« Last Edit: January 09, 2010, 11:43:32 AM by kentel »

Offline CRCulver

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2010, 01:23:15 PM »
The likes of Sorensen are the direct product of the idiot academic establishment.

That's a curious claim considering the music situation in Denmark. Figures like Holmboe, Nørgård and Sørensen have had a pretty similar reception: they've been accepted by the Danish concert-going public, but their work draws little interest in academic circles.

Offline some guy

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2010, 01:37:10 PM »
...nothing that's going to last.
Interesting how often this idea comes up in conversation. It's as if it had some special, magical quality, guaranteeing agreement or at least making disagreement impossible.

But what is it, really? It is no more than conjecture. There is no way to make it anything more than conjecture, either, since it's about a region which none of us can have any knowledge of, the future. We can guess only. We cannot know.

Far from being the nice knockdown argument it always masquerades as, it is a grade one chimera.

(Even, I cannot resist adding, if it were possible to know this, does anyone genuinely care what one's grandchildren's grandchildren will or will not be listening to? These are people not yet born, people none of us will ever know. I wonder why it's always assumed that these people will have impeccable taste.)

kentel

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Re: Bent Sørensen
« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2010, 02:21:44 PM »
Interesting how often this idea comes up in conversation. It's as if it had some special, magical quality, guaranteeing agreement or at least making disagreement impossible.

But what is it, really? It is no more than conjecture. There is no way to make it anything more than conjecture, either, since it's about a region which none of us can have any knowledge of, the future. We can guess only. We cannot know.

Far from being the nice knockdown argument it always masquerades as, it is a grade one chimera.

(Even, I cannot resist adding, if it were possible to know this, does anyone genuinely care what one's grandchildren's grandchildren will or will not be listening to? These are people not yet born, people none of us will ever know. I wonder why it's always assumed that these people will have impeccable taste.)

There is a rather famous American literature teacher, I.A Richards, who thought that a masterpiece was a masterpiece, not depending on one's taste. One can like or dislike Keats or Byron, they were geniuses whatsoever, it is a question of understanding (according to Richard's). You appreciate, that's fine, you dislike, then go back to your readings. The idea was, at one should become what he called a "perfect reader" in order to know what was good or bad. The idea have been obviously dismissed later, but it remains a fascinating subject of debate (is the masterpiece a masterpiece because we, readers and listeners, decide it or not ?).

That recalls me also this story you've certainly heard, about this guy (I don't remember if he was a missionary or an ethnologist) who discover an Indian tribe somewhere in Amazonia and make them listen to Bach on his tape recorder. The Indians are fascinated, and seem to love Bach too, thus the conclusion : Bach's genius is universal. But the true question was : were they fascinated by Bach or by the tape recorder ?





« Last Edit: January 09, 2010, 04:07:33 PM by kentel »