Rune Glerup

b. 1981



Rune Glerup’s works have been compared to objects a person can walk around. His musical objects define their own space, create contexts for one another and can masquerade as other entities entirely.

From his early work Trio (2000), Glerup started to explore how these distinct objects might generation friction with one another. The technique is taken forward in objets/décalages (2008), dust encapsulated #1 (2008-09) and #2 (2009), and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2009-10) which both harnesses and kicks against musical dogmas.

Glerup’s Symphony (2015-16) is an example of heightened imagination controlled by chiseled, functionalist mechanics while Six Movements for Piano Trio (2016-17) extends a Nordic tradition for drilling deep into simple ideas by subjecting them to standard structural forms.

Glerup has collaborated with the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, SWR Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart and the Venice Biennale.

Andrew Mellor, 2020


Rune Glerup’s fastidious yet impulsive music springs from his eagerness to view matter and ideas from multiple perspectives. His works have been compared to objects a person can walk around, or mobiles suspended in the air that inevitably find their own equilibrium.

The urge to hear the same sounds differently first led Glerup from his native Denmark to the European mainland. He immersed himself in the artistic life of Berlin and studied sound and electroacoustic music at IRCAM in Paris. Inspired by the philosophy of Alain Badiou, Glerup developed a distinctive view of music as a three-dimensional structure that bears a direct relationship to the space in which it is performed.

His first listed work, Trio (2000), crystalizes the idea that musical objects with a signature character can create discernible friction when they meet one another. With objets/décalages (2008) Glerup’s blocks of sound became more distinct and demarcated according to thematic character, instrumental timbre and spatial positioning; the composer was soon convinced that the more his objects defined their own space, the more fertile and tense their relationships would become. When the order of the objects is shuffled, as in objets/décalages, the shift in context has the effect of a lighting change that sees each object illuminated anew.

That score was followed by dust encapsulated #1 (2008-09) and dust encapsulated #2 (2009). In the first, for electronics and percussion, the musical objects are rendered almost literally so, half-masquerading as domestic appliances that pine to get along. But Glerup was also considering how he might frame such micro-relationships within a more comprehensive macro-structure. He invested the second piece, scored for winds, strings and piano, with a hurtling energy that suggests a unifying impulse despite the continued separation of the constituent parts, thus bringing the overall structure into sharper focus. In both techniques there are echoes of the late Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, an early fan of Glerup’s whose music shares his animalistic nervous energy.

Around half the scores on Glerup’s work-list carry formal titles, a reflection of his ambivalent relationship with canonical traditions. In his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2009-10) the composer suggests, with no lack of charm, that musical dogmas can provoke composers even if they provide helpful frameworks at the same time. There are no overt tricks in the concerto, whose soloist obeys all the practical rules you can see but breaks the theoretical rules you can’t. The work throws 13 separate musical objects together, refusing to instigate a traditional conversational development. It is a rumbustious, delicate and scrupulously colourful work whose depth-concealing playfulness adumbrates the knockabout world of its successor, Divertimento (2010), partly inspired by Mozart’s score of the same name for string trio.

In the 2010s, Glerup further explored the idea that spatial tension, rather than overt process, was a viable means of moving music forward. At the same time, his music took on a new eloquence and depth. Each chapter of Sonata in Seven Movements (2011) harbors a particular form of expression, while the thematic gestures in Piano Quartet (2014) and Clarinet Quintet (2014-15) are notably weighty and refined. Six Movements for Piano Trio (2016-17) extends a Nordic tradition for drilling deep into simple, shapely ideas by subjecting them to the rigor of standard structural forms: rondo, passacaglia, scherzo. With this piece and Symphony (2015-16), chiseled, functionalist mechanics and Nordic clarity combine with a heightened sense of instrumental imagination and control of ‘uncontrollable’ energy. The results are refreshing and idiosyncratic.

Still in his thirties, Glerup has collaborated with the world’s most distinguished new music ensembles including London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen, Uusinta Ensemble and Quatuor Diotima. Symphony was commissioned by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, which gave the score its first performance in Copenhagen under conductor Thomas Søndergård, while Concerto for Piano and Orchestra was performed by the SWR Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart at the Venice Biennale following its premiere at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Glerup has been a featured composer at festivals in Paris, Venice, Monte-Carlo, Helsinki and beyond. In addition to IRCAM, he studied in the soloist’s class at the Royal Danish Academy of Music with Bent Sørensen, Niels Rosing-Schow and Hans Peter Stubbe Teglbjærg and now teaches composition and instrumentation there. From 2012-14 he was Artistic Advisor to Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen and from 2012-14 was Artistic Director of KLANG – Copenhagen Avant-Garde Music Festival.

Andrew Mellor, 2020



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