KOMPONISTEN / THE COMPOSER
What the critics wrote ….
Translations: Anne Bloch, David Earle Robinson & Jonathan Sydenham
The first performance of Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm was the most exciting feature of the DUT concert programme. This is a direct consequence of the fact that Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm is a gifted composer. Ideas flow effortlessly from him and he can write for instruments so they impress and the musicians are given the chance to show what they are capable of.
Jens Brincker, Berlingske TidendeInspiration was, in contrast, the keyword in Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm’s “The Mountains of Monesties”. A good score with substance. One feels that a strong personal experience lies behind this dynamic piece. This gives the music relevance.
Teresa Waskowska, Politiken
Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm has presented us with a wordless and delicate fairy story for this large melancholic instrument. It is not so easy to write delicate music for the tuba but Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm´s surprising constellation of percussion and tuba has a diabolical dancing lightness.
Lene Kryger, Fyens Stiftstidende
This very exciting composition also took its place – temporally. Not dynamic, for it was primarily depth which was to be investigated. A surface which, despite a particularly rigid compositional framework, lifted itself up and away from the anchors of convention and reference to aim at that which lacks substance. Sighting blind – a leap of the famous seventy thousand embraces, inwards and outwards at one and the same time.
Martin Lewkovitch, Bornholmeren
… a composer with something to say. Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm calls his piece serious and it must indeed be said that his introduction, with its sharp insistent chord changes, provokes the listener’s consciousness. The work gives no release, gives no answer but has nevertheless a fine evolution of structure by which Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm demonstrates that he is in control of his artistic elements.
Steen Chr. Steensen, Berlingske Tidende
But with the first performance of Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm’s “Nat” (“Night”) tension was replaced by intensity and the choir unfolded with a richness of subtlety. Nordstrøm´s music, with its complexity and tonal fascination, bore the linguistic virtuosity and the sensual dynamics forward, giving an overall impression of beauty.
Ursula Andkjær Olsen, Dansk Musiktidsskrift
The concert opened with the first performance of Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm´s broadly fabulous “Drømmespor” (Songlines) in which very diverse but always luxurious and sensually formulated components replace one another in imperceptible changes. An energetic choleric beginning flattens out into dreamlike tone streams which subsequently coalesce and diverge again in expressively gesticulating solo phrases and dramatic dialogues.
Jan Jacobi, Politiken
He is a strange gentleman this Nordstrøm, unlike anyone else in Danish music. Sensitive, soft and warm in a beautifully unpretentious tonal language formed by bluff hands and with a sense of humour … a charitable meeting with a composer whose characteristic is that he is who he is and no-one else. Listening to his music is like bumping into a man with both feet firmly planted on the ground and who stays his ground. One winces a little and says sorry even though it is actually he who is standing in the way….
Bernhard Lewkovitch, Kristeligt Dagblad
In recent decades a variation of new music has emerged in Denmark without much ado: music that is often more interesting than much of the kind that gives central European cultural centres an unpleasant air of pomposity. The Danish composer Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm, for example, writes finely etched, sometimes cutting, always tension-filled music that defies all the avant-garde or modernist clichés. Nordstrøm’s sounds are not intrusive; they are there to be explored in peace and quiet. His works are mainly inspired by astronomical or natural phenomena; not necessarily easy to digest, but of lasting validity.
Thomas Schultz, Rondo
There is consistency in the things Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm lets inspire him and a corresponding consistency in the lyrical universe in which he moves musically. This is, as a rule, broad, pulseless, atonal and fundamentally gesticulating music with a tendency towards the quiet drama which arises in the mind when observing nature with wonder and admiration, to dreaming, to contemplation and to nocturnal atmospheres. But there is also plenty of room for the more brutal, superior, discordant and active nature…. there is a certain feeling of loneliness in Nordstrøm´s music. The human journey towards the space of eternity is no group outing, it is a poetic voyage which requires a good portion of love of loneliness or in everything which possesses the cool beauty of a landscape empty of people. It is from here that Nordstrøm´s musical natural lyricism sounds out and the result is congenial patient music.
Jens Hesselager, Dansk Musik Tidsskrift
Nordstrøm has a preoccupation with the mysteries of ancient, prehistorical sites and their relation to the cosmos – hence here we have musical depictions of the standing stones in Carnac, the mysterious Faroe Islands, the Andromeda galaxy, and space itself, as delineated by the relations between the planets of the solar system. Music of texture, using subtle, sophisticated instrumentation, tonal references and a surprising melodic sense, albeit in the context of a vocabulary that includes quarter-tones, clusters and mathematically-determined note-rows, an eloquent language in which to express the composer’s views of time and space.
Records International Catalogue
… one heard various tones reminiscent of glittering ice crystals, expressed through ostinato ideas and the high pitch of the harpsichord, which ran like a binding thread through the concluding part, carried on the bass flute and almost interpreting the glowing fire at the earth’s core. The last part could be perceived both as the phenomena of ice and fire and the lovesick summer night.
Jón Ásgeirsson, Morgunblaðið, Reykjavik
This was a beautiful piece, not so dreamy, but on the contrary with a logical development. The voice of the flute is very expressive and the harpsichord answers with conviction and openness. The interplay is wowen with genius and often the instruments seem to glide together forming a single entity. Nordstrøm clearly does not suffer from that intolerable tendency of some composers to cram far too many notes together into a small space, as one would bombard a fly with a cannon. In Nordstrøm’s “Draumur” nothing is superfluous. Every note has deep significance.
Jónas Sen, Dagblaðið Vísir, Reykjavik
The composer’s third string quartet “Norwegian” lets its frayed shivering tones grow out of the nothingness of fog. A static impression. Fragile as daybreak. The listener feels alone inside something greater than himself. Probably nature – the North Atlantic.. Here we are far removed from the nearest banal tune. Conversely, there is an abundance of nerves and open senses, functioning as gateways for more violent impressions. The opening harmonies are beautifully subtle, like a watercolour. Then the music gets to grips. Elsewhere a single stroke stands quite alone, like a bird call or whistle, so silence demands its quota of our attention. One listens with pleasure and curiosity.. “Developments” is fine abstract music for two accordions. A sequence which holds the attention caught between tonal common denominators and alternating musical manifestations. Fascinating, when the two musicians have both climbed to the top of the mast and let the highest tone vibrate while they slowly gather courage to look dizzily out over the horizon.
Thomas Michelsen, Dansk Musik Tidsskrift
Nordstrøm’s music is organic and elemental, and the composer tends to concern himself with nature’s wild places and the vast spaces and forces suggested by natural phenomena. Utilising a vocabulary which encompasses everything from noise to consonant harmony (not used as such in a functional sense), these pieces are evocative of place, above all – whether Norway, Andalusia, the Faroe Islands; the composer’s preoccupation is with a sonic equivalent of landscape, haunting, desolate and beautiful – and essentially, unpopulated.
Records International Catalogue
Aggressive confrontation, coming in fortissimo – with Ligeti-like density, a suitcase of percussive effects. Something Twilight Zone – space age nebulae and bass tones on the eight-string guitar that reposition the angle of the projected shadows. Then a dilution: a conversation of fragments. Questions – delicate answers. Certain tendernesses coming through the harsh realities. The music arrives at an utterly new place – ergo, FLUCTUATION. The richness of a harp – it sounds sometimes like the strings of the piano are being strummed by the palm of the hand. Then a texture of quiet conversation somes to be peopled with dense activity. Futuristic velocities and superimpositions. Taken to the outer limit(s) – to the break(ing) point. fluctuations – become more and more rapidly shifting. A “seasick” episode follows, but we do not capsize – we find our footing again. An arpeggio of loose tones seals the experience. An epilogue prolongs this texture of hovering weightlessly in the nebula – gathering up the delicate fragile silences of the main section into a bouquet of flowers.
Dan Mamorstein, Booklet-text
String Quartet No. 4 – from the Hebrides is a good work with glissandi, harmonics (which makes me think of skies in the Northern countries), sounds of tonality, exotic modes, elements of celtic music and vehement rhythm. It is a masterpiece.
Takuo Kawachi, Geijutsu Record Magazine, Japan.
Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm’s Fluctuations is a complex, dense piece that often has a pointilistic quality. It is the most complex and engaging piece on this recording, full of contrasts in texture, dynamics and character.
James Reid, Soundboard, USA.
Guitars don’t have to sound like excuses for themselves, and nor did they in the evening’s two new works. Hans-Henrik Norstrøm’s “Fluktuationer” may be described as a form of minimalism, in which a tissue of figures imperceptibly changes intensity, Klang, register and harmonic colour. It starts energetically with tooth-jangling shrillness in the upper registers but the pressure soon eases; the movement grows airy and the harmonics mild.
Jan Jacobi, Politiken
Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm also makes advances with his “Fluktuationer”; once the players have knocked the bark off the trunk the piece reveals the scurrying back and forth of what sounds like tiny beetles. Flashes of this rapid coming and going in the microcosmic first movement are heard again as scattered, swarming reminiscences in the calmer epilogue, and it is perhaps at the most general level – as a piece of musical architecture in one long movement and one short movement – that the strengths of the piece lie.
Thomas Michelsen, Dansk Musik Tidskrift
There was more power in Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm’s “Riverrun”, a kaleidoscopic piece inspired by “Finnegans Wake” by James Joyce. Hans-Henrik Norstrøm’s music is what used to be described as fable-like, but in recent years listeners will have discerned tauter architecture and greater pleasure in sheer sound, which benefited the counterpoint of “Riverrun” and even more so in his “Vækst” brass quintet. There the gentle flugelhorn gives way to bright, virtuoso treble trumpets, thereby creating a clear formal progression in the music.
Ole Lauritzen, Dansk Musik Tidsskrift
Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm made his public debut as a composer as recently as 1990, but since then he has made a considerable impact. In the first work on the CD we meet him as the creator of constantly flowing, fluctuating music in the Xenakis style. It sounds like light playing in a beech wood; it brings to mind Ligeti’s description of the musical surface as reminiscent of the surface of water with countless tiny motions which together comprise a static pattern. But in this case the pattern is one of depth of perspective and rapid movement, a kind of contemporary response to Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune! In general Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm is not afraid of legerity and pauses. We often encounter laconic expressions with a beneficial economy of effect. Silence in nature is translated into music, which not only manages to convey teeming life but also its transience and silence. It is refreshing to come across what one may call contemporary impressionism in works as convincing as these.
Jørgen Lekfeldt, Dansk Musik Tidskrift
The composer’s trombone background helps to explain why he has such flair for composing for wind instruments – brass and woodwind alike, and why “Vækst” is one of the best Danish works for brass quintet.
Per Rask Madsen, Dansk Musik Tidsskrift
These musical nature paintings, with such spontaneity and expressiveness, are few and far between in Danish music. The CD is most recommendable, as is reading Jesper Lützhøft’s notes before and after listening to it! His observations on music, listening and nature provide a poetic picture, rather than an “explanation” of Hans-Henrik Norstrøm’s music.
Jørgen Lekfeldt, Dansk Musik Tidskrift
Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm receives the Børresen Award in appreciation of his work as a composer; work which sums up its many strands in the loveliest fashion in Finnegan’s (2005). With his consistent, sonically rich, story-telling style Nordstrøm generates forward motion, form and spontaneous ideas that combine into a fascinating musical journey. Finnegan’s thus demonstrates the sustainability of the intentions and paths the composer has been pursuing for so many years, and illuminates his entire output in retrospect.
The motivation for the Hakon Børresen Honorary Award.
It is the fascinating nature, Nordstrøm (born 1947) experience and wish to share with us in works like the septet “Hushed November”. Not like the dying and dimmed moods of nature of Bent Sørensen, but more optimistic and sometimes light sparkling. In the “Workshop of the Planet” you find a stimulating embracing of life, honestly presented and with surprises up one’s sleeve.
Per Rask Madsen, the periodical Klassisk.