Jørgen Jersild

1913 - 2004



Jørgen Jersild was born in Copenhagen and started to play piano at an early age. He arranged music for the school orchestra and wrote small pieces at age 12. Later on, he took lessons in music theory, piano and composition –with Poul Schierbeck among others. Prior to his studies in Musicology at the University of Copenhagen, Jersild studied with Albert Roussel in Paris. He became a teacher at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in 1943, and from 1953 to 1975 he was a Professor and lectured in aural skills, instrumentation and composition. He was known as an outstanding educator and has published a series of widely used books on solfège.

Jørgen Jersild’s music is always marked by a timbral refinement with a certain inspiration from Cesar Franck and a persistently seamless musical timing. His early works sit in the intersection between the Danish and French traditions,whose inspirations the mature Jersild synthesized into his own personal style, as can be heard in his Three Romantic Songs for Chorus (1971), for example.

His output is limited to a small handful of works: chamber music, choral music, piano music and not least a number of works for harp. 

Jersild’s prizes include the title of Choral Composer of the Year in 1995 and the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Honorary Grant in 1999.
Critical Acclaim
...Jersild's music is marked by the elegant and sometimes the virtuosic, based on a mastery of the craft - Erling Kullberg


"Music should shine by itself"
Jørgen Jersild was active both as a composer and a music teacher. He was a pupil of the Danish composer Poul Schierbeck and the Frenchman Albert Roussel. His point of departure in tonality and French inspiration can be heard clearly in his breakthrough work Trois Pièces en Concert, and the very often-performed wind quintet Serenade – Playing in the Forest.
His work with choirs and perhaps especially the harp later took Jørgen Jersild’s musical idiom in a more modal direction. This can be heard for example in the quartet Fantasia E Canto Affetuoso or Fantasia for harp.
From the 1970s on Jersild developed a particularly original personal style. This is perhaps most evident in the choral work Il Canto Delle Creature, 15 Piano Pieces for Julie, or the rarely played string quartet.
Both as a teacher and as a cultural figure Jørgen Jersild went to work with curiosity and an open mind. Entrenched positions and fixed opinions had no inherent justification for him. By rethinking and renewing the classic disciplines of sol-fa and ear training Jørgen Jersild thus situated himself centrally in modern music teaching internationally. His textbooks in the two subjects are still widely used today.
On the issue of his attitude to Arnold Schoenberg and atonal music Jersild answered in a interview in 1999: "...I think it’s rather putting the cart before the horse to begin with the theoretical and then make the music. Music should shine by itself. And then maybe sometimes it’s given to a later generation to extract some technical. theoretical ideas from it. I have difficulty following atonal music because I think that the results don’t suggest that it’s a good approach.
Jersild’s statement – and a number of incisive debate articles against the more experimental part of music in the 1960s – are not to be understood as exclusively reactionary. They are rather a view that personality and originality interested him far more than dogma and trends.
Jersild did not only work with choral and chamber music;there was also room for background music for stage and radio plays, films and even a winning song in the Danish Eurovision Song Contest in 1965 in a small but always exclusive and sophisticated musical output.
Hjarne Fessel 2014 


29th April 2024

Students from the Royal Danish Academy of Music
Royal Danish Academy of Music, Frederiksberg, Denmark

20th November 2024

Randers Chamber Orchestra
Værket, Randers, Denmark