Niels Rosing-Schow

b. 1954

Danish

Summary

Niels Rosing-Schow found his voice in France after schooling in Denmark. His sensual, suggestive music is rooted in his belief that ‘harmony and sonority are the same thing’, rendered with a distinctly Danish clear-headedness and a wider Nordic allegiance to nature’s guidelines.

He studied at Copenhagen University and the Royal Danish Academy of Music. But it was on a study scholarship in France that Rosing-Schow had his musical epiphany. Under the influence of Iannis Xenakis, he started to develop a spectral style in which instrumental timbre and colour would carry as much structural import as traditional harmony.

Rather than trample on his lyrical instincts, his new thinking transformed them. He developed a more exploitative view of his own material and started to look to nature as a guide. He honed a process-based technique that lends many of his scores the feeling of unfolding sculptures or blossoming plants, viewed with a certain objectivity but leaving a distinct residue.

The same concept led the composer into a fascination with time and metamorphosis, apparent in the series Ritus (1990) and the trilogy Spectre du temps (2004), Empreintes du temps (2006) and Peinture du temps (2004), dedicated to Gérard Grisey. Beauty and clarity remain overwhelming characteristics of Rosing-Schow’s music, even when it homes-in on a technical objective.

ViolaSounds (2015) is a mature example of his coercing of a single instrument into a deep exploration of its own capabilities, prompting a process of metamorphosis along the way; Orbis (2002) takes the same forensic approach to an entire body of strings. The Alliage series (2009-16) subjects instrumental partnerships to the composer’s spectral ideas, melting base timbres down so duo partners might emerge welded together.

More recently, Rosing-Schow has plunged into the realms of space and imagination. I giardini dietro la città for ensemble harbours images of a garden glimpsed by the composer in a dream, while providing one of the most beautiful, elegant examples yet of him sticking to his ideals of timbre as structure, improvised rhapsody and blossoming self-discovery.

Light and luminosity have been central themes, from the radiant orchestral canvas Windswept Landscape (1992) to Equinox (2003), in which light-infused material turns dark. Black Virgin (2005) continued in the same thick-set vein.

Rosing-Schow has been commissioned by orchestras in Denmark including the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen. He enjoys a close relationship with the French ensemble TM+. He is currently professor of composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

©Andrew Mellor, 2019


Critical Acclaim
...In Niels Rosing-Schow's music there are no quotes nor clear style references. Instead Rosing-Schow revolves on symbols of schisms in modern society, the process of thinking, archetypal performances - Anders Beyer, Information
...Niels Rosing-Schow is a composer with the theoretical foundation in place. His music reflects a colossal knowledge of the different musical tendensies. He is internationally oriented, stays abreast of the latest developments, and yet he is liberating old-fashioned - Steen Chr. Steensen, Berlingske Tidende
... At the sound of the music, words as sensuality,elegance, and clarity are best suited to describe the experience. The clarityof the listening experience is not only found in the profitable timbre and inthe accurate and varied orchestration, to a great extent it is also found in astructural clarity – Trine Boje Mortensen, Komponistforeningen

Biography

Niels Rosing-Schow found his voice in France after schooling in Denmark. His sensual, suggestive music is rooted in his belief that ‘harmony and sonority are the same thing’, rendered with a distinctly Danish clear-headedness and a wider Nordic allegiance to nature’s guidelines.

Rosing-Schow studied musicology at the University of Copenhagen and music theory at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. After exploring the basics of music and performance in a homespun duo with his friend Hans Abrahamsen, Rosing-Schow fell under the influence of Copenhagen’s Alternative Music Group. He responded to the parameters laid down by the group’s ultra-minimalists including Ole Buck, but also to its interest in improvisation, which sharpened the young composer’s ears to instrumental sonority and reactivity. An early score E Rigidis (‘Out of Rigidity’, 1981) crystalized Rosing-Schow’s use of one aesthetic to explore another – a rite of passage that slips from the mechanical to the fluid.

It was in France later that decade that Rosing-Schow had his musical epiphany. On a study scholarship in Paris, he worked at Iannis Xenakis’s workshop Les Ateliers UPIC and became interested in the spectral ideas propagated by Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail. It was talking to Xenakis that Rosing-Schow woke to the expressive potential of his reluctance to separate harmony and sound. He started to develop a spectral style in which instrumental timbre and colour would carry as much structural import as traditional harmony.

That idea soon drew music of distinct beauty and luminosity from the composer – chamber and sinfonietta scores, orchestral works, but mostly calligraphic solos and duets. Rather than trample on his lyrical instincts, his new thinking transformed them. He developed a more exploitative view of his own material, forcing it to examine and develop itself in much the same way his instruments are forced into greater self-awareness. Just as Xenakis had looked to natural, biological processes for a structural guide, Rosing-Schow’s music explored ideas of growth and organic development. He honed a process-based technique that lends many of his scores the feeling of unfolding sculptures or blossoming plants, viewed with a certain objectivity but leaving a distinct residue.

The same concept led the composer into a fascination with time and metamorphosis. The percussion series Ritus (1990) subjected rhythms to gradual, tantalizing transformation. The trilogy Spectre du temps (2004), Empreintes du temps (2006) and Peinture du temps (2004), dedicated to Gérard Grisey and inspired by the Frenchman’s thoughts on time, looks at the unfolding or stopping of time through contrasting parameters.

Beauty and clarity are overwhelming characteristics of Rosing-Schow’s music, even when it homes-in on a technical objective. ViolaSounds (2015) is a mature example of his coercing of a single instrument into a deep exploration of its own capabilities, prompting a process of metamorphosis along the way; Orbis (2002) takes the same forensic approach to an entire body of strings. The Alliage series (2009-16) subjects instrumental partnerships to the composer’s spectral ideas: Alliage II pits accordion and saxophone in duet, melting their base timbres down so they might emerge, welded together, as one. Vocabularies II (1986/97) amplifies the sonic qualities in words themselves, pushing them through a process of whispering transformation.

Recently, Rosing-Schow’s interest in time has led him to reflect on the concept of memory. Old music haunts new music in Spectre du temps for flute, viola and piano, with the effect of jerking the music even more readily into the present (the piece uses fragments from Grisey’s Vortex temporum, a play on musical time that itself reaches back to Maurice Ravel).

More recently, Rosing-Schow has plunged into the realms of space and imagination. I giardini dietro la città for ensemble harbours images of a garden glimpsed by the composer in a dream, while providing one of the most beautiful, elegant examples yet of him sticking to his ideals of timbre as structure, improvised rhapsody and blossoming self-discovery – all of it rendered with a functionalism and clarity that means no note is wasted. Light and luminosity have been central themes, from the radiant orchestral canvas Windswept Landscape (1992) to Equinox (2003), in which light-infused material turns dark. Black Virgin (2005) continued in the same thick-set vein.

Rosing-Schow has been commissioned by the Copenhagen Phil, the Odense Symphony Orchestra, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen the Caput Ensemble and more. He enjoys a close relationship with the French ensemble TM+. His chamber opera Dommen (‘The Verdict’) was premiered by the Royal Danish Opera in 1996. He is currently professor of composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen.

©Andrew Mellor, 2019


News

Performances

30th November 2020

SOLOISTS
Olle Davidson, Erica Giacoletto & Lars Malther, double bass; Ulla Habermann, piano; Manuel Esperilla, piano & harpsichord
LOCATION
Metronomen, Frederiksberg, Denmark

Features

  • Niels Rosing-Schow – The music speaks
    • Niels Rosing-Schow – The music speaks
    • Discover the music process of Danish composer Niels Rosing-Schow, he unfolds, transforms and dives the compositional process and transforms it into 'talende musik' – music that speaks.

Photos

Discography