My violin concerto is called Sterbende Garten. I went to a place in Denmark where there was this overgrown garden, and it left me in a very special mood. One of the things I was thinking about was a certain sentence in a poem by Herman Hesse, where there is a line Sterbende Garten ... (dying, decaying garden). It has a German title, even though my German is not fluent. Another inspiration for the piece is Italian frescoes from the 15th century. What is especially interesting to me is that the picture you see when you go to look at the frescoes in a cathedral in Florence or Rome, is a very old picture which has decayed. So it becomes more and more a picture of our time, and it is therefore very new. The way that culture becomes nature because of time has been an inspiration for all of my pieces.
The important thing about the structure is that it is always on the border of being tonal. My music is always about being on the edge of something you heard before, but you have never actually heard it anyway. The form of the piece is sort of Classical. It is mostly in the high register. There are no chords in the piece. Everything played in the orchestra is a kind of echo of the violin part.
It is my most Romantic and Classical piece in a way. But this is for me a kind of dreaming; there are no quotations. The piece begins with a cadenza which is on the verge of silence. I live in the country, and I like to work at night, when it is completely silent. The only sounds come from the birds, who signal the break of dawn by seemingly haphazard outbreaks. There are many moments where I try to create a sort of distance by many instruments playing pianissimo staccato notes. This sort of pointillistic feature, which I have become known for, is like the paintings of Georges Seurat, where you have to stand at a distance to see the whole picture.
After writing the first movement, I went to Venice with the idea of writing a Romance for the slow second movement. The first thing that came to mind was the Barcarolle. I decided to write a sort of slow-motion Barcarolle. My music is built from thirds. What particularly interests me about this is the exploration of tonal ambiguities. Perhaps this is the reason there are no bass lines, so as to emphasise these ambiguities.
The last movement is very fast and dance-like. Many years ago in Amsterdam I heard a street musician playing his violin extremely fast. Here, I have tried to recreate this type of folk-music world, with its frenzied sound.
- Bent Sørensen 06-07-97