ARS NOVA – Danish Music Crosses Borders

“Crossing Borders” programme by vocal group “ARS NOVA” visits Germany

September 12th, 2016
Daniel Erhardt, CD News

Danish vocal group “Ars Nova” from Copenhagen, held a concert last Friday, 2nd of September, at St. John’s Church in the town Nieblum on the North Sea island of Föhr. The concert, under the name “Crossing Borders” featured works by Danish composers who were inspired by the sounds and cultures of neighbouring countries, as well as foreign works connected to Denmark, illustrating the plurality embedded in its own cultural heritage.

Within the calm and cosy environment of the 13th Century Church of St. John, located symbolically on the German island of Föhr, bordering Denmark, the concert’s programme “Crossing Borders” reached its full significance. It included works by mainly contemporary Danish composers like Vagn Holmboe, Niels W. Gade and Carl Nielsen, but it also included works by Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar, German composer Johannes Brahms and Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

Among the pieces from Danish composers performed during the soirée, we could find Holmboe’s “Two Border Ballads” and Gade’s “Kong Valdemars Jagd”, “Die Wasserrose” and “Im Wald”. Both composers were influenced by foreign music styles. Holmboe researched typical Transylvanian folklore music during a trip to Romanian remote countryside in 1933, while Gade had close ties to Germany.

He was close friends with German composers Mendelssohn and Schumann, acted as a professor at the Leipzig Conservatory and was assistant conductor to the Gewandhaus Orchestra between 1845 and 1847. After 1848, this resulted in his music being influenced by German-developed Romantic Nationalism, through which he was also finding inspiration for his work from native Danish folklore.

The performing “ARS Nova” vocal ensemble exists since the year 2003 and is specialized in performing polyphonic choral music from the Renaissance period, as well as new vocal music. Since the group’s inception, acclaimed British conductor Paul Hillier has acted as their chief conductor and artistic director. They have been successful in promoting Danish culture worldwide by, for example, touring China in 2015 with more than ten concerts during a cultural promotion campaign organized by the Danish government.

They also won a Grammy award for their album “The Little Match Girl Passion” and have published recordings of all dramatic works for Easter and Christmas by German composer Heinrich Schütz, between 2008 and 2011. The latter publication confirmed a special cultural relation of the group with Germany, as they were invited to be artists in residence during the 2014 Heinrich Schütz Musikfest in the composer’s hometown of Dresden.

The groups most recent concert is more proof of this special cultural connection, organized by the broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, also in charge of broadcasting the concert, and the German Foundation for Heritage Protection (Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz). All the benefits from this intercultural discovery musical experience are being donated to the upkeep of the St.John’s Church heritage site in Nieblum, serving an even greater cultural purpose.


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