Commissioned by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra
My 5th Symphony (1987-90, rev.1991) was commissioned by the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and premiered on 6.December 1990 by, and dedicated to, the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.
After the premiere in 1990 I decided to revise the beginning (and only the beginning) of the work. The first pages of the score were discarded and about 20 seconds of new music was written in the summer of 1991. The new and final version was premiered on 1st of May 1992.
The symphony progresses without pauses between movements, often in several layers of tempo with mutual ´golden section´proportions. The listener´s experience of form in the work will, therefore, depend on the directions of his own attention. But so far as overall divisions are concerned, four sections (perhaps five) - running into each other - can be traced: an expansive, cascading introduction, a kind of scherzo, an chaconne-like adagio and a kind of finale, again with the phenomenon of ´cascades´ as a main idea. However, as the course is from time to time thrown into chaos by convulsive twitching and crises, other experiences of form are opened out within a spectrum from wild to cautious, from dramatic to contemplative, in a universe of tempi which can suggest the title of a book of poems by the Danish Michael Strunge (1958-1986): ´Velocity of life.´
A listener described the symphony as “a walk with a fire-breathing dragon” and a reviewer described it with words like “a pacifist in times of war”. Anyway, words and programme note are – as Carl Nielsen said about titles – only “road signs” for personal experiences in the area of music itself.
Per Nørgård (2010)