• Per Nørgård
  • Four Observations - from an infinite rapport (1995)
    (4 Observations)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)

Hommage a Bela Bartok

  • str
  • 5 min

Programme Note

– homage a Bartok (1995)

Please notice that Per Nørgård wrote 2 programme notes for the work. You may use what might be useful for the concert.

“TRIBUTES – album for strings” (1994-95) includes three homages, which might also be performed separately.
The shared point of departure was the homage to three major composers of the 20th century – Bartok, Lutoslawski and Sibelius.

In the FOUR OBSERVATIONS the homage is to Bartok (on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death 1995).
Hungarian Radio asked me to write a piece in his honor, but apart from the very last unison string figure , which is - I think - very Bartokian, the work in no way intends to evoke, even less to imitate, the musical style of the great Hungarian master. This would be an act of impudence against a composer who was such an exceptionally integrated personality, and who has himself shown (in 'Mikrokosmos') the worthy way to pay a personal tribute to highly respected colleagues:
In 'Homage á J.S.B.' and 'Homage à R. Sch.' Bela Bartok composes in his own manner but lets the music reflect some qualities of the said composers, as perceived in Bartok's mind. In a similar way my 'Observations from an infinite Rapport' (ca. 6 minutes) reflects as well the timeless proportions of the 'golden section' - which seem to have inspired Bartok so much, - in his great respect for perceptive, structural patterns.

The duration of Tributes, Album for Strings: appr. 18 min.
(5 min. – 7 min. – 5 min.)

Per Nørgård

– hommage a Bartok (1995)


“TRIBUTES – album for strings” (1994-95) includes three homage, which might also be performed separately.
The shared point of departure was the homage to three major composers of the 20th century – Bartok, Lutoslawski and Sibelius.
My “Tributes” has a somewhat “cool” attitude, motivated by the reasons for their creation.

But how can a composer make a real tribute to a colleague without falling in the pit of ´pale pastiche production´?
My answer to the question was expressed in the comment to the first tribute “Four observations – from an infinite rapport” – to Bela Bartok – a commission from the Hungarian radio to commemorate the 5oth year of his death: the way that Bartok himself musically showed his affinity to Schumann and Bach (in “Mikrokosmos”: Homage a R. Sch., Homage á J.S.B.) was how I tried to make mine in my tribute to him. Instead of imitating, I focused on a special, characteristic feature of his music, which I found to be related to mine: his frequent concentration on canonical aspects, as for example in “Music for string instruments, celesta and percussion”. Recognizing this drive in myself, I built up all four ´Observations´ on one simple idea: a swift, descending passage, accelerating simultaneously with its stepwise distribution to the strings (from the violins to the double basses). At the same time as this relay is completed, each instrumental group repeats its own isolated bit of the passage.
In this way a paradoxical ´as well as´ effect is created combining the linear (falling, acceleration) motif as one unit with a repeated figuration in each string group. This results in a combination of the slow portion of the motif in the violins, the faster one in the violas and, consequently, the fastest figurations in the celli and the basses. This ´Janus face´ of each group (being self-contained and part of a chain) marks the development of the first three of the Observations: in one moment the linear, forward movement is in focus, in the next one the static figuration is in the foreground, the resulting music being a interplay of the two tendencies. The fourth Observation starts in a strongly contrasting mood, with a forceful, hammering, unison line at a rapid speed. A short epilogue echoes the descending acceleration from the former Observations – until, finally, a decisive bass scale fragment abruptly (and, at last, in indisputable Bartok manner) concludes the piece (which has a duration of 6 minutes).

Per Nørgård


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