Mp3 Blog #93: Two Movement Compositions/Nørgård and Wölfli

Per Nørgård:
Symphony #4: (1981)
I. Indian Rose Garden
II. Chinese Witch’s Lake

Performed by the Danish Notional Radio Symphony Orchestra

Available along with many of Nørgård’s works on emusic

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In the last three years I’ve been rather preoccupied with the idea of writing two movement compositions. In reflection, I think this preoccupation started after I heard Denys Bouliane present an analysis of his work “Rumore Sui.” What struck me the most about this piece at the time was the two-sidedness of the two movements — how, although the two movements are constructed in a very simple near perfect symmetry, one perceives something much more complex in their relationships.

This preoccupation has led me to work on two compositions that each have two movements — a work for clarinet or saxophone and electronics and a violin and cello duo. To date, I have only finished the first movement of each work. (The violin and cello duo was premiered at a jury recently at the University of California in San Diego and the clarinet/electronic piece will be premiered in a rough form on Tuesday.) Not finishing either of these works has bothered me quite a bit and in attempting finally finish the second movement of the clarinet or saxophone and electronics works I’ve begun to listen to a lot of my favorite two movement compositions.

One of my favorite two movement compositions is Per Nørgård’s Symphony #4. Lately I have been listening to a lot of music Per Nørgård. This is in part because he has written a number of successful two movement piece such as the Third Symphony, “Voyage into the Golden Screen,” “Remembering Child,” and his Fourth Symphony.

Nørgård composed his Fourth Symphony soon after he became obsessed with the work of outsider artist Adolf Wölfli (1864 – 1930). As a result of this obsession Nørgård dedicates this work to Adolf Wölfli. This obsession with Wölfli is also seen in the compositional style of this symphony which includes an extreme drama not found in any of Nørgård’s previous work. In fact, I often hear this symphony as a parody of the monumental high structuralism that is so present in his previous Symphony #3. That aside, this symphony also includes a personal emotionalism drawn from Nørgård’s reflections on some of Wölfli’s imagination. In my opinion this emotionalism is largely what imbues Nørgård’s compositions written since the 80′s with an expressiveness that I am greatly drawn towards.

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