The Day Breaks: Works for Large Ensemble

Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 8:00 PM

Lost Dog New Music Ensemble and guest artists
Sarah Moyer, soprano
Neeraj Mehta, percussion
James Baker and Garth Edwin Sunderland, conductors


  • Prelude to Breaking
  • Prelude and Ant Fugue *
  • Nova Genitura *
  • Three Scenes *
  • Night-Symphonies, Day Breaks *
  • ( * U.S. Premiere )

photo by Lars Skaaning

The final Festival program features works for larger ensembles, and continues to explore Nørgård’s connection to the natural world and the Golden Ratio. Bookending the concert are Prelude to Breaking and Night-Symphonies, Day Breaks, two important pieces that survey the organic rhythms of nature in both sound and structure. Prelude to Breaking evokes the accretion of waves coalescing into a harmonic totality. Night-Symphonies, Day Breaks, the centerpiece of the program, utilizes his concept of ‘tone lakes’ – a sort of fractal explosion of the Infinity Series.

A major chamber symphony from 1992, Night-Symphonies turns to the subtler aspects of nature for inspiration. Nørgård writes that piece expresses the “acceleration, but also the delicate dying away of the vibrations we can experience by watching the sequence of movements of a leaf that is relieved of the weight of some raindrops: first a gradual bending, then, with overweight, a rapid unloading of the water (possibly down onto another leaf…), a backward bend followed by ever more delicate vibrations heading towards a (temporary) restoration of balance. Rhythm-gestalts of this type constitute an important part of the musical idiom, and contrast with more flowing rhythm in which short beats alternate with long ones… Among other sounds inspired by nature are the foam-like complexities of many overlapping sound patterns. The dripping of million drops of water has made a particularly strong impression on me (e.g. the sound surf following the breaking of the ocean´s enormous breakers on the shore).”

In between are three works that illuminate very different aspects of Nørgård’s astonishing versatility. Prelude and Ant Fugue (with a Crab Canon) is a delirious, hilarious deconstruction of Bach’s C Major Prelude from the Well-Tempered Klavier, which itself is built around a ‘Golden Ratio’ structure. (Nørgård would later drastically expand this work into the double percussion concerto Bach to the Future.) Three Scenes, a concerto for Percussion and Ensemble, is an exploration of the idea of ‘drama’ in music, with the percussionist serving as the protagonist. In the first ‘Scene,’ he is counterpoised uneasily against the linked, often disapproving voices of the string trio. The second Scene centers around a long soliloquy for musical saw and kalimba, while the final Scene is a raucous dialogue with the full ensemble.

One of Nørgård’s most noteworthy ‘Infinity Series’ works of the 1970s is Nova Genitura. It is built in part around a passage of choral music that first appeared in his epic Third Symphony, which also employs the Golden Ratio. Nørgård has repeatedly returned to this extraordinarily music throughout his career, re-examining it in different contexts and modes of expression. This setting, of the Marian hymns ‘Ave Maris Stella’ and ‘Flos ut Rosa’, is undoubtedly the loveliest, most gentle expression of the Infinity Series, and perhaps the most beautiful piece in Nørgård’s entire body of work.

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