• Per Nørgård
  • Prelude to Breaking (1986)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)

The pieces is available in two version: the original (fl., clar., stringquartet, and piano and percussion) and the so-called Harp version (fl., clar., stringquartet, and harp).
A mezzosoprano might (ad lib.) sing a fragment of the composer’s ”Composition” (text by G. Ekelöf) in the coda of ”Prelude to breaking”, as notated in the score.
The instrumental work might be played as a prelude to the choral song "Composition” (text by G. Ekelöf) with the title "Prelude to breaking – and to Composition”. Finally, the instrumental work might also be played as a prelude to the choral work "3 Hymniske Ansatser” (3 Hymnic Dispositions): 1.’Composition’, 2.’Strandvalmue’ (’Beach Poppy’), 3.’Die Parke’ (’The Parks’) – the choral work sung after "Prelude to breaking”.

"Prelude to breaking” was a point of departure for the choral pieces "Regn Nat" ("Rain night”) 1983/1989 and "I hear the rain” (1989/1992).



  • 1.0.1.0/0.0.0.0/perc/pf/str4tet [Ms]
  • 9 min
    • 19th May 2022, Syddansk Musikkonservatorium, Esbjerg, Denmark
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Programme Note

The title quotes a book on wave forms (Willard Bascom: ´Waves and Beaches´, 1980), characterizing the surf-effect as a multitude of ´sub whirls´ in harmonic speed to each other. When this synchronicity tops over in accelerations of the individual tempos it is called ´Prelude to Breaking´.

The bass-continuous melody is perceived by the composer as a manifestation of the surf-phenomenon at a beach in Cualam, Kerala (India). Each second a new front of impressive length - up to hundreds of meters - breaks almost simultaneously all along, the many together producing a sound as from hundreds of lions, out of which to my ear was heard firstly: a fundamental and all its overtones, secondly: a 14 beat bass-(or rather all registers encompassing) melody. The three other motives have other stories - but all, like the mentioned one - possessing a feature of ´objets trouvées´, of treasures found.

A mezzo soprano might ad lib. sing a fragment of the composer´s “Composition” (text by G. Ekelöf) in the coda of “Prelude to breaking” (notated in the score). The instrumental work might be played as a prelude to the choral song “Composition” (text by G. Ekelöf) with the title “Prelude to breaking – and to Composition”. Finally, the instrumental work might also be played as a prelude to the choral work “3 Hymniske Ansatser” (3 Hymnic Dispositions): 1.´Composition´, 2.´Strandvalmue´(´Beach Poppy´), 3.´Die Parke´(´The Parks´) – the choral work sung after “Prelude to breaking”.
Per Nørgård

Note: The last section (about the Mezzo soprano and the combination of pieces) might be used or not used, ad libitum.

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Discography