LORENTZEN: Colori / Goldranken / Nachtigall / Abgrund / Five Easy Piano Pieces
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Drama,drive and sensuousappeal
- a portrait of thecomposer Bent Lorentzen
?áBent Lorentzen was born on the 11th of February 1935 in Stenvad - a village in Eastern Jutland - in a multi-talented family. His father was an inventive wag with a partiality for opera and music drama, especially Wagner. The opera singer Kirsten Schultz was s frequent guest, and accompanying her on the piano her younger cousin became intensely absorbed in this way of singing. The singing cousin was later married to the composer Svend S. Schultz, who was already a prolific opera composer. When Svend visited Stenvad young Bent would help him copying his scores; this turned out to be a kind of informal apprenticeship.
The practical dimension of the composers craft has a deep meaning for Lorentzen, who was rather ambivalent towards the formal education of composers at music academies and conservatories - of which he has first hand knowledge, both as a student and as a teacher. His own formal education began at Aarhus University (where the composer Knud Jeppesen was ordinary professor) and continued at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen (where his teachers were the composers Vagn Holmboe, J?©rgen Jersild and Finn H?©ffding). He became a Reader at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, where he worked from 1962 to 1971, since when he has worked full time as a composer. During the Aarhus years he attended courses in Darmstadt and Munich (1965), he studied electronic music in Stockholm (1967-68), and he was the co-founder of the Aarhus Opera Group in 1963 and of Aarhus Unge Tonekunstnere (AUT, Young Aarhus Composers' Association) in 1966.
Lorentzen has held important positions in Danish musical organisations, and he has been awarded many prizes in international competitions, including Prix Italia 1970 (for the open Euridice) the Serocki competition 1984 (for the chamber work Paradiesvogel, International Choral Composition Award in Austria 1987 (for Olof Palme), the Olivier Messia?½n Organ prize 1988 (for Luna, Vienna Modern Masters 1991 (for the Piano Concerto), the Music and Poetry Prize in Belgium 1989 (for Enzensberger's Prozession). Since 1982 he has received the lifelong grant of the Danish Art Council, and other Danish awards include Choral Composer of the Year 1990, and the Carl Nielsen Prize 1995.
Lorentzen's compositions cover all genres, also 'rare' or 'unknown' genres - like music for carillons, dramatic pantomimes, bugle ensemble, and 'town sounds'. His orchestral music includes concertos for oboe (1980), cello (1984), piano (1984), saxophone (1986), trumpet (1991) trumpet and trombone (1999), violin (2001); the chamber works include solo music for organ, piano (complete on this CD), trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, violin, cello and double bass; and in addition to this string quartets and works for mixed ensembles (2- 12 instruments). He has composed numerous choral works in unique dramatic style. The list also includes electronic music and instrumental drama. The most important part of his work, however, must be his operas and other works for the stage. To date Lorentzen has composed 13 opens (in different formats), many of which had their premiere in foreign countries, mainly in Germany. The most recent opera - Der Steppenwolf based on Hermann Hesse's novel - is still awaiting its world premiere. Intensive dramaturgic studies have accompanied the operatic work during the years, and Lorentzen frequently teaches music drama at the ?àrhus and Copenhagen academies of music.
This composer never settled in an ivory tower. Lorentzen's goal has always been communication and interplay with musicians as well as audiences and institutions. This effort has not always been successful - in special cases the composer's management led to conflict instead of contact. An example was the 'Opera dispute' in Aarhus 1969, where Lorentzen, as a leading member of AUT, articulated a critique of the prevailing traditional and conservative line and autocratic leadership style of the Danish National Opera (Den jyske Open) at that time. No consensus was possible, and the culmination of the conflict came, when members of AUT interrupted an open performance with a demonstration in the theatre. A resolution was read aloud to the astonished audience, before the demonstrators were removed. Lorentzen wrote two articles in the local newspaper with a thorough analysis of the situation of the open as a threatened species' in the musical fauna. It is interesting to observe - more than 30 years later - that most of Lorentzen's ideas and recommendations have been turned into reality by later generations. His own experiments were many, and during the 1970s three of his operas had their premiere at - Den jyske Opera. A later, very successful example of the composer's communication strategies was the Ebeltoft Festival (1989-1993), a summer festival in an old Danish town, where inhabitants and tourists were offered programs with a fifty-fifty mix of old and new music in carefully selected surroundings (in- and outdoors). This philosophy of multisensory surprises created a special and stimulating festival.
Bent Lorentzen's music
As indicated above, Lorentzen is a composer with a rare interest in the interplay between music and listener, no matter whether the listener is a pampered 'connoisseur' or maybe a schoolgirl trying her strength against tape recorded sounds from everyday life. Composer, musician(s) and producer must create optimum conditions for the experience, if a dialogue is to emerge. Humour may be an intersection point - and it is often present in Lorentzen's music. This humour may be found in the meeting point of two worlds, the world of sounds and instruments and the world of human experience and expectation. Lorentzen shares this fundamental acceptance of sound in all its variety with Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, a colleague three years his senior. However Lorentzen's style is unique and very personal, irrespective of genre.
His music has often been characterized with the adjective sonic, indicating that sound itself and the material-textural effect of sound is a core element in the music. The composer confirms that he - in an almost childish fashion - is fascinated by sounds, and he does not hesitate in consciously using vulgar sound when he finds them appropriate (e.g. the sounds of gastric juices, farts and night pots being emptied in the opera Den Stundesl?©se. This engagement in the sound itself is apparently rare in new music - and certainly not identical with the quest for \Nie erhorte Klange" of the postwar European avantgarde. Lorentzen's point of departure is the role of sound and the function of the auditory sense in the phylogenesis of man: the sense of hearing enabled the prehistoric man (and still enables modern man.) to identify a sound in two dimensions: what is it? (friendly or hostile, well known or unknown) and where is it? (close or distant: should I stay or flee?). Sound and timbre unfold as specific identities its space and time, and the human ear and brain (or better: consciousness) has a remarkable capacity of differentiating and processing auditory stimuli cognitively. Working artistically with sounds promotes a dialogue with the listener based on his/her capacity of discrimination and psychological processing, both cognitivel