Concert: 10 GALGENLIEDER (2008) (Figura)

Galgenlieder … veered wildly across a diverse musical landscape.  At times, it pitched towards cabaret, at others towards art songs, theater music, archaic popular music, early serialism and so on.  Sometimes the ensemble sang backup.  It was such a joy to hear.”

(Igor Keller, 2010)


Numerology meets harmonic analysis in these seven piano pieces and concluding piano concerto (which forms more than a third of the whole) which make up Brødsgaard's ingenious, varied and inventive cycle. Pitch relationships and rhythmic proportions are based on ratios derived from the harmonic series, which gives the music a sense of tonality and a consistency of metrical structure, however complex the resulting patterns may turn out. The individual pieces are very varied in texture and mood. 'Joker' and sections of the piano concerto have a lively, quasi-minimalistic feel, with energetic, shifting patterns. But “Requiem” is a study in sonority and resonance (including some restrained unconventional playing effects), while “Attacca” begins with a wild study in furious, percussive clusters. “Hymn” is a tribute to Messiaen, and both birdsong and the older composer's characteristic serial approach to rhythm are readily discernible. Jazz and rock elements put in fleeting appearances here and there - in 7-9-13 (hilariously combined with the phrase which it is now impossible not to hear as prescient of boogie-woogie in Beethoven's last sonata, Op.111) and 'Bacchanale', especially, while 'PyroMania', inhabiting the treble end of the keyboard, is a flickering study in updated early 20th-century impressionism. The concerto incorporates elements of the earlier pieces, extending the additive arithmetical constructions through the greater resources of the larger ensemble, in which polyphonic presentation of material of widely divergent character is possible. The cycle manages to be hugely entertaining, while simultaneously intellectually engaging, expressively free while meticulously structured.

Records International, jan. 2008

…The pieces were composed using the composer’s own personal “system” that derives rhythmic relationships from the frequency ratios of the harmonic series.

That’s not as schematic as it might sound. Given that some of the frequency ratios at the lower end of the harmonic series are very simple (the perfect fifth is 3:2 for example) and easily translated into cross-pulses, the music itself is often effervescent and quite accessible. The more ratios used the denser and more complex the harmony.

Brødsgaard operates wier (1990), is a rhythmically alive, harmonically static machine ride. Other pieces are more contemplative, like Requiem (1992) and Hymn (1994).The concludith a great deal of flexibility, layering intervals and their associated pulses according to immediate expressive needs. The first piece in the cycle, Jokng Piano Concerto (1994-95) includes material from each of the preceding seven pieces of the cycle, and was written, in part, as an experiment to see if the procedures could work on a larger scale, which it does in this piece.”

Steve Hicken,, 22/4 2008)

...A disparate collection of solo piano works ends where a concerto begins. Brødsgaard employs a system which derives pitch and rhythm from the harmonic series. The seven solos' titles suggest preoccupations, yet it's hard to pluck them out. Joker opens upon a minimalist's shop but soon drifts elsewhere. Quoting Beethoven at its start, 7-9-13 implies an intricate Nancarrow-like rhythmic strategy. Hymn employs Messiaen, but soon wanders into free jazz. Brødsgaard's one-way meandering works best in the concerto, which amplifies contrasts. The opening's feathery harmonic vocabulary prompts an association with Spectralisme, soon abandoned for robust cresting and a bold finish. I'm obliged to point out the title, a Latin palindrome, which translates as “We enter the circle at night and are consumed by fire.” Hind, who labors convincingly throughout, proves most satisfying when joined with Austin and the Esbjerg Ensemble.

Grant Chu Covell,, Oct.2008

...His style is a curious mixture of tonality and experimental modernism, and as the booklet explains at length, these scores are driven by a mathematical formula we encounter in Joker, the disc's opening piece. I confess that I am always suspicious when such structures have to be spelt out in a programme note, if the music cannot speak for itself then best forget it. All seven of these solo works are then quoted in the Piano Concerto which enjoys a chamber orchestra accompaniment. At times it sounds as if it could become a minimalist composition but we are not so fortunate, the score a horrendously difficult for the soloist. I am full of praise for Rolf Hind, one of our great exponents of modern music, his lucidity in creating the structures the booklet explains having come from a depth of knowledge into the musical world of Brodsgaard. His complexity of mix with the estimable Esbjerg Ensemble must have taken meticulous preparation. Brodsgaard will no doubt create a devoted group of followers who will travel down his road of modernism.

David Denton

With his solo piano piece "Joker" (1990), Brodsgaard created a system of composition where the harmonic proportions between overtones determine the rhythmic proportions of the entire work. His new piece could thus be be compared to the work of Per Norgard and Elliott Carter in that it is made up of multiple rhythmic lines that only meet at key points. Here the magical proportion is 2:3:5:7. But the sheer joie de vivre, the "bounciness" of the piano writing looks to Olivier Messiaen, while the evocation of rich spectral possibilities within the equal temperament of the piano meets Horatiu Radulescu.

"Joker" only proved the start of Brodsgaard's explorations of this method and the first piece in a vast cycle "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni", a Latin palindrome meaning "We enter the circle at night and are consumed by fire". This cycle further contains solo piano pieces "Attacca" (1992), "Requiem" (1992), "PyroMania" (1994), "Bacchanal" (1994), "7-9-13" (1992) and "Hymn" (1994), as well as the Piano Concerto (1994-95). The solo pieces are pretty varied. "Hymn" and "Requiem" are slow and contemplative. The pointillistic "Attacca" recalls mid-century modernism. "PyroMania" consists of glittering textures and "Bacchanal", as its name implies, is the most upbeat.

The most impressive work on the disc is the Piano Concerto. Initially the soloist's line is the heart of the piece, and the orchestra only contributes new timbres here and there to that core melody. A third of the way in, the orchestra subsumes the piano, with pizzicato strings and pitched percussion taking over. Soon the piano reasserts itself and the concerto blossoms into true dialogue. This is an excellent concerto with a real talent for orchestration.

Brodsgaard's writing for the piano is fiendishly difficult, but Rolf Hind keeps the multiple layers of the music distinct -- like with Per Norgard, this is music where one misstep by the performer might cause the whole piece to fail. The liner notes are good, explaining the theoretical background behind Brodsgaard's music, but also noting how the music always rises above its compositional constraints.

These pieces by Anders Brodsgaard combine intriguing theory with immediate accessibility, and they ought to appeal to a wide audience. I highly recommend this disc.

Christopher Culver, Amazon May 20. 2011

CD: GALAXY - Odense Symfoniorkester, dir. Christopher Austin

"Galaxy" (1990-93/1999) is a single-movement work lasting 40 minutes, a great synthesis of the strict rows of 12-tone music and spectralism's rich overtone harmonies. Formally the piece works as a spiral: the material constantly shown to be part of a larger pattern. Eventually, one can hear clearly the theme lying behind it all, but the piece stops just as it is about to expand to even larger dimensions -- it's a truly endless spectacle. But although the piece is imposingly monolithic in form, there are many fine individual movements to delight in: passages of pitched percussion and winds that sound like underwater landscapes of darting fish and swaying seaweed; string adagios of nearly Romantic lushness; cosmic brass lines and foreboding drums. I'm convinced that "Galaxy" is one of the greatest works for orchestra of our time, and if you are reading this review (who besides contemporary music fans would find this Amazon listing?) then you need to hear this disc, period.

(Christopher Culver, Amazon, Nov.11. 2011)