• Per Nørgård
  • Spell (1973)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)

Spell - Clarinet trio no. 2, is related to the work Turn

  • vc, cl, pf
  • 18 min

Programme Note

Trio No. 2 for clarinet, cello and piano.

Spell was composed in 1973 (for the American Montagnana Trio), at the same time as I was working with my Symphony No. 3 (1972-75).

The English title “Spell” refers to “spelling” with notes, where small groups of notes are repeated and turned by means of gradual alterations in the accents – until a new melodic pattern has emerged – but also to the idea of “enchantment”.

Per Nørgård


”Spell”, my second clarinet trio, was composed in 1973. There is a lapse of about twenty years between the two works and much which was subconscious in me when I composed op. 15, had in the meantime found expression and had moreover been formulated in rational note and rhythm constellations of an abstract kind (“the infinite series” from ar. 1960, the rhythmic layers of “the golden section” from 1972, etc.). As indicated by the title the work aims at “casting a spell” by “spelling”, which – expressed in notes – means that small motifs of few notes gradually change in the course of numerous reappearances. When three instruments in this way separately “spell” their way through one motif after another, it is evident that numerous kinds of harmonies and melodies will develop. In that way one state after another appears, according to the single stages of the “spelling”: secretive, lyrical, exhilarated, violent, melancholy, festive, etc. – like cloud formations forming pictures and breaking up again: the forms are innumerable and partly dependent on the listener’s creative imagination. Nevertheless the course of the work can be described in broad outline – like a landscape from an aeroplane: the murmuring double tempo of the introduction, a virtuoso pianolike part which gradually “breaks up” and reveals a hectic conflict, released in a “grand” climax; this lasts, however, only for a short while and then discloses a sensitive inside until an almost chaotic ‘furioso’ brings the movement – and the work – to a close. At last, however, there is yet another ending where the drip of notes from the beginning reappears, but on a new basis of sound and emotion: the circle proves to be a spiral.

Per Nørgård 1981