Per Nørgård: Iris & Voyage into the Golden Screen

Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Herbert Blomstedt, Tamás Vetö

This is the premiere recording of two of the great Danish composer Per Nørgård‘s most ground-breaking works for orchestra, both of which clearly show his unique position between minimalism and expressionism, or as he himself said – I stand with one foot in Western rationalism, and one in Eastern mysticism, and yet they both feel strange to me. I find myself, so to speak, at a third point.

Works like Prisme, Luna, Iris and Voyage into the Golden Screen associate with colours and nature, and when Per Nørgård speaks about music, he also places great emphasis on the experience of nature and how we can learn something about ourselves by observing it. The basic idea in works like Iris and Voyage… is a complexity based on the widest possible simplicity. In order to understand it, one has to imagine a network of lines, each representing a rather simple melody or rhythm. The sounding result is a fascinating blend of motion and light in the wavy lines of sounds and rhythms that move towards a glittering highlight – to a synthesis of simple elements that, upon close inspection may seem irrelevant, but which nevertheless has decisive influence on the changes of the whole.

In the composer’s own words: It’s not too different from the daisy’s bloom, with 21 spiral lines moving in one direction and 34 for the other. It is fascinating to observe nature in this way. For why it is certainly very complicated, a great simplicity shines through. The same thing I strive for in my music.

Per Nørgård has always dreamed of iridescent music. As a common motif for Iris, Voyage…, and other works, he puts forth the rainbow – both because the rainbow a natural phenomenon, and because the spectator always experiences it solely from his own position. It “moves” in relation to from where we look at it. If this is transferred to the mental experience of a musical work, it means that every audience member in his own way shapes his own music. Such a large amount of “droplets” in the musical rainbow flow in every moment, so that the listener’s interpretation is highly dependent on identity and emotional state when listening. Thus, it is possible to follow the music from a self-chosen plane: one can be content with a kind of passive perception and enjoy the sound colours at a distance. Or you can immerse yourself in the work and follow the different melody lines.

The fascinating and lyrical music in Iris and Voyage into the Golden Screen is performed here, with both passion and precision by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and conductors Herbert Blomstedt and Tamás Vetö respectively.

Per Nørgård himself designed the cover of this record. We see a spiral which, when we look closer, proves to be a version of the composer’s “infinity series”. He describes the interpretation of the spiral in the following way:
1. If you play the notes in the spiral in order, from the inside out, you get the first 96 notes in the infinity series (G, A-flat, F-sharp, A, etc.)
2. If you play the notes in a vertical line, straight down from the first note of the infinity series, G, in the centre of the spiral, you also get the infinity series (G, A-flat, F-sharp, etc.)
If you continue in the same way vertically down, but from the second note, A-flat, the infinity series also occurs, but turned around (A-flat, G, A, F-sharp, etc.)
The same thing is true if you go vertically down from the third note, F-sharp. From the fourth note vertically down the infinity series occurs in its original order again (A, B-flat, A-flat, B, etc.)
From each of the 16 notes of the innermost spiral, thus, the infinity series can occur, in the right or reverse order and in various transpositions.
3. Finally, if you follow one of the coloured lines, any of them, you will constantly pass notes which are related to one another, either in octave or major thirds. Follow, for example, the yellow line from the first G of the spiral diagonally down to the left. Then you meet the notes B, E-flat, G, B, G, G, etc.

The recordings on this album were made by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation as studio productions.
Producer: Per-Anders Hellquist
Editor: Gunilla Rennerfelt
Photo: Joakim Strömholm
Cover art: Per Nørgård
Graphics: Stanley Dickens & Sofia Berry

Read more

Show playlist

    • 1.
      Iris Music: Per Nørgård

    • 2.
      Voyage into the Golden Screen Music: Per Nørgård

  • Total playtime

CAP 21914 / Release 2018-05-25 / Digital