Interview with Per Dybro Sørensen (May 2019)
When did you start playing the guitar and why?
When I was 13 years old, my grandparents gave me a guitar. I played it a lot and listened to a lot of different music – and one day I heard some recordings of Andrés Segovia on the radio. This made me want to be a classical guitarist.The only guitar teacher in my hometown was a very kind woman, who played guitar in the salvation army, she was not able to teach me very much, but she taught me how to work. And so I practised as well as I could and in 1972 I passed the entrance exam for the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark. This would not have been possible today, since now there are a lot of music schools with good teachers all over Denmark, and there is pre-professional education, making the level at the entrance at the academy very much higher. That is a big step forward and it raises the level at the academies all the way through.
What did you study and what is your musical background? I know you have studied with Maria Kämmerling , how she was as a teacher?
At the academy I was educated by Maria Kämmerling, and partly by her late husband, Leif Christensen, because they considered it fruitful for me to get different inputs, so I often had Leif as a second teacher, and these two exellent players had open discussions of many technical and musical issues and created a very dedicated bunch of guitar students.
Later I studied with Konrad Ragossnig at Musikakademie der Stadt Basel, and this was very fruitfull because of his big knowledge and because of the connections with the international gutiar world.
What were and are your main musical influences?
The third young guitar professors at the academy was Erling Møldrup, and all of these three teachers played a lot of new music. The danish composer Per Nørgård was teaching at the academy in those days, and around him was a lot of very interesting young composers, so I was brought up at a very exiting place and I listened to as well as played many newly written solo- and chamber works.
And then I became interested in the ways of playing baroque music as well, because of the great research of people like Robert Donington (read A performers guide to baroque music!) and Jesper Bøje Christensen.
Besides, In Basel the Music Academie is placed next to Scola Cantorum Baseliensis, and therefor I met a lot of people playing old music and discussing the latest research.
I have three records of yours in my archive. I would like to talk with you about them. I would like to start with the “Jolivet Davies” record, how did you decide to play their music?
Well, it’s very good music. I played the Hill Runes as well as the Jolivet Studies a lot. At that time, in the second half of the 1980’s, I had a couple of LPs behind me, and I was very much in doubt whether I should make my next LP containing the works of André Jolivet or those of Peter Maxwell Davies. But when I mentioned the plan to the chief of Paula Records, Karin Jürgensen, she said, that I should make a CD instead, since this would soon become standard. And so I did, and it turned out, that the longer playing time of the CD made it possible to play the music of both composers!
The music of Axel Borup-Jørgensen was very much played at the academy during my student years, and later I simply felt I had to dig into this music as deep as I could, and this was the way to do it. So I and the other musicians had very long and fruitfull sessions with Axel concerning the performance . And they all made a great job. My studying this music is one of the reasons why I have become serious as a composer as well as a guitar player nowadays.
A lot of your records were released thanks to Paula Records, an indipendent label no more operative. What was Paula Records for people like you interested about contemporary music?
It was a very good record company, the above mentioned Karin Jürgensen, who ran the company at the time, was – besides beeing very patient – very well informed about the music, and she had very good ears.
I have also your record “Dietrich Buxtehude 6 Suites”, I think it’s simply beautiful, how did you decide to play this music?
I found the Bream-version of the E minor BuxWV 236, and then I bought the book of the Buxtehude piano works, and started to work on them. I was living in Basel at the time, and I had a great time plaing this music by an almost danish composer. There was a nationalistic dispute (expecially in Denmark) at the time, whether Buxtehude was to be considered a danish or a german composer, but that was not so important: he has a quality of his own. The suites were found in an old family book in Nykøbing Falster, Denmark, and were translated from keyboard tablature into piano notation and published by the company Wilhelm Hansen as “Dietrich Buxtehude Piano Works” in 1941. Kalmus has it now, also for download, entitled Dietrich Buxtehude Harpsichord Works”, and the suites BuxWV 227, 233 and 236 are available at www.imslp.org .
To get the best barouque feelingI consulted the barouque expert Viggo Mangor, who also became the producer of the CD.
How have you met Gunnar Berg’s music?
Maria Kämmerling played the Fresques, so I knew these before we did the recording. Unhappily Gunnar Berg was dead in 1989, so I could not ask him for advice, but I knew Marias phantastic recording of the Fresques, and Jens Rossel from the Gunnar Berg Working Group was able to tell me a lot about the compositions.
Talking about composers, Berio in his essay “A remembrance to the future,” he wrote: “.. A pianist who is a specialist about classical and romantic repertoire, and plays Beethoven and Chopin without knowing the music of the twentieth century, is also off as a pianist who is specialist about contemporary music and plays with hands and mind that have never been crossed in depth by Beethoven and Chopin. ” You played both traditional classical and contemporary repertoire … do you recognize yourself in these words?
Yes, I agree, since all new music is written and heard with knowledge of the old one. And if you just play the old, you will lose a music that is concerned about our time and shaping our ears.
What does mean improvisation in your music research? Can we go back to talking about improvisation in a repertoire so encoded as the classic or you’re forced to leave and turn to other repertoires, jazz, contemporary, etc.?
When I work with baroque music, I try to get into the old style and improvise as, say, an 18th century lute player would. At that time the music belonged to the performer and there was a collective style, that everybody knew. So I changed the texture of the Buxtehude suites to a hopefully suitable degree according to improvisation in the old style as close as I could get it. 19th century:I am sure that Fernando Sor did improvise some as well, but I haven’t done any research here, and he was very keen to write down small changes in his themes, so I would not go too far!
Some moderne composers demand improvisations too, but here somehow I seem to work best with a detailed score, where the improvisation is in the phrasing etc.
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises…
Well, I often play errors, of course, and some of these, maybe an unexpexcted accent, might seem right in some way and demand something later on, that can be usefull in a small number of cases.
As a composer I often work with small “errors” in the context, the bar might be prolonged a little to create a “tilting” feeling or so, this giving the possibility of “falling” elsewhere. For exampel I have written a “Divertimento, disrupted” for sinfonietta, where the music is disrupted by material from inside itself.
And what do you think is the “function” of a moment of crisis?
“Crisis” means turning point in greek. I have had many crisis’ in my work with different music. It is like doubt: you have to make a decision to get on, and often it teaches you a better way.
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
I have just published a CD, “Les Idées Heureuses”, containing music of Robert de Visée and Francois Couperin. I have recorded this music very much like I did the Buxtehude stuff, discussing the right way to play it with Viggo Mangor. Since it is French music, I play a lot of inegal – swing – in many of the pieces. One of my favorite pieces is the “Sylvains”by Couperin, a piece, that Visée made a lute transcription of! And of course there is the “Baricades Mistérieuses”. The Visée music is taken from his lute- and theorbo music, as this music in my view suites the moderne guitar much better than his music for barouque guitar, that you usually hear modern guitarists play. Among these pieces there is a very good chaconne.
Right now I am writing down these arrangements, and they will be published for print and download by Edition Bergmann this year.
As a part of the Rosengard Guitar Trio (together with Michael Norman and Niklas Johansen) I am planning a recording of guitar music for trio, duo and solo, conttaining more or less recently written works by Erik Højsgaard, Per Nørgård, Irina Emeliantseva, Alexander Radvilovich, Erik Jørgensen and myself.
And the Corona Guitar Kvartet has a CD coming in a couple of years: New danish works by among others Bo Gunge, Peter Bruun, Bo Andersen, all written for us.
As a composer I get a CD published with chamber works, played by a lot of good musicians. The title is “Even on the most beautiful of days”, and it will be released in 4 or 5 weeks. For guitar players it might be of interest, since it includes 2 guitar trios and 3 studies for solo guitar.
April 26th 2019