Though Danish composer Erik Jorgensen (b. 1912) started out as a Neoclassicist in the mode of Bartok and Stravinsky (popular in Denmark in the 1930s), he evolved into one of the more sophisticated practitioners of advanced serialism in northern Europe. His music, though, tends to be less abstract than is typical of most serial compositions. If anything, Jorgensen's works have the same kind of organic "fullness" as the works (particularly the symphonies) of Leif Segerstam. Like Segerstam, Jorgensen's not afraid of injecting occasional passages of tonality or, as in the case of the Introduction and Presto for Saxophone Quartet (1995), dashes of humor.
His major work is his 1967 composition, Confrontations for Orchestra. It's a beautifully intense grand-scale serial work for full orchestra, a genuine masterpiece. (It's also a showpiece for the Odense Symphony, which takes to this music with extraordinary confidence.) Jorgensen's Variations for Piano (of 1966) is a serial work based on a single untransposed 12-tone row, but it has a rhythmic structure more consistent with tonal compositions. Improvisations for Wind Quintet (of 1971) is another serial piece that sets contrasting instruments, such as the flute and the oboe, to follow their own tone-rows, a device that allows for some interesting syncopations. Piece for String Quartet (1964/65) makes eerie use of extreme bowing techniques (playing as close to the bridge as bow and fingers can go, for example), to create a work that Iannis Xenakis would drool over.
Finally, Introduction and Presto for Saxophone Quartet (1995) presents the playful side to Jorgensen's temperament. It's a more pointillistic piece; it's also more rhythmically coherent than the other chamber works on this disc. Though serialism has gotten a bad rap over the years, it can produce very stimulating listening experiences--and fortunately, that's what we get here. All of the featured players and ensembles know the heart of this music and deliver very captivating performances, supported by excellent sound. Highly recommended.
--Paul Cook, ClassicsToday.com