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Niels Rosing-Schow

Born: 1954

Nationality: Danish

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Photo © Lars Skaaning

Niels Rosing-Schow found his voice in France after schooling in Denmark. His sensual, suggestive music is rooted in his belief that ‘harmony and sonority are the same thing’, rendered with a distinctly Danish clear-headedness and a wider Nordic allegiance to nature’s guidelines.

He studied at Copenhagen University and the Royal Danish Academy of Music. But it was on a study scholarship in France that Rosing-Schow had his musical epiphany. Under the influence of Iannis Xenakis, he started to develop a spectral style in which instrumental timbre and colour would carry as much structural import as traditional harmony.

Rather than trample on his lyrical instincts, his new thinking transformed them. He developed a more exploitative view of his own material and started to look to nature as a guide. He honed a process-based technique that lends many of his scores the feeling of unfolding sculptures or blossoming plants, viewed with a certain objectivity but leaving a distinct residue.

The same concept led the composer into a fascination with time and metamorphosis, apparent in the series Ritus (1990) and the trilogy Spectre du temps (2004), Empreintes du temps (2006) and Peinture du temps (2004), dedicated to Gérard Grisey. Beauty and clarity remain overwhelming characteristics of Rosing-Schow’s music, even when it homes-in on a technical objective.

#ViolaSounds (2016) is a mature example of his coercing of a single instrument into a deep exploration of its own capabilities, prompting a process of metamorphosis along the way; Orbis (2002) takes the same forensic approach to an entire body of strings. The Alliage series (2009-16) subjects instrumental partnerships to the composer’s spectral ideas, melting base timbres down so duo partners might emerge welded together.

More recently, Rosing-Schow has plunged into the realms of space and imagination. I giardini dietro la città for ensemble harbours images of a garden glimpsed by the composer in a dream, while providing one of the most beautiful, elegant examples yet of him sticking to his ideals of timbre as structure, improvised rhapsody and blossoming self-discovery.

Light and luminosity have been central themes, from the radiant orchestral canvas Windswept Landscape (1992) to Equinox (2003), in which light-infused material turns dark. Black Virgin (2005) continued in the same thick-set vein.

Rosing-Schow has been commissioned by orchestras in Denmark including the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen. He enjoys a close relationship with the French ensemble TM+. He is currently professor of composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Andrew Mellor, 2019

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