Danish composer Bent Sørensen has won the 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition for “L’isola della Città” (The Island in the City). Written for Trio con Brio, and commissioned by the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Trondheim Chamber Music Festival, the 25-minute work is for violin, cello and piano soloists and orchestra. It was premiered in 2016 by the trio and the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
His music is steeped in memories and recollections, and personal experiences. It often begins in a place that is quiet and imperceptible, but never shies away from creating large, dense musical textures from the quietude.
Sørensen, who lives in Copenhagen, a city on an island, describes how he was inspired by two ideas, “One of them is very personal, because at the time I wrote the piece we lived in the middle of Copenhagen in a flat, near the very center of Copenhagen. There was only one balcony, and that was our balcony. And when we were standing on the balcony it was like it was an island in the middle of a big city.”
The other, he says, was more practical “When I wrote the piece, I didn’t think about it as three soloists, but as one soloist — as one soloist, as an island connected by three musicians.”
In “The Island in the City,” Sørensen often uses the three soloists as a singular voice, who move in and out of the orchestral music. He doesn’t use electronics to create sound, but rather relies on orchestrating in meticulous, and often clever, ways that can easily trick the ear: in one instance he asks each woodwind player, who don’t normally play percussion, to play a woodblock, resulting in an unexpected and disconcerting effect.
Sørensen’s career, so far, includes an opera commission from the Royal Danish Theater, new works for pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, and the Ensemble Intercontemporain. The New York Philharmonic will premiere on of his newest works “Evening Land,” on November 30th. As part of the Grawemeyer Award, Sørensen will be in Louisville this coming April for lectures and masterclasses.
In 2014, New York-based LONGLEASH Trio played Sørensen’s Phantasmagoria on 90.5 WUOL