Daniel Börtz

A composer in a constant state of development - It’s hard to detect any clear periods in Börtz’s works, and in this respect, he differs from other contemporary Nordic composers like Per Nørgård and Sven-David Sandström. As with Börtz’s great idol Bruckner, his compositional technique is subject to continual development, with a personal style - quite unique right from the start - that constantly derives nourishment from new experiences.

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There are key works in this process that sum up more clearly than others experiences gained and act as springboards for his creativity. Without doubt, one such work is The Bacchae (1988-89).

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Around 1980, Börtz started to abandon the textural music ideal characterised by simplicity and concentration that is such marked feature of his music from the 1970s, for a more complex, varied style. This process can be seen quite clearly in works such as Sinfonias 6-8, Quartetto 3 per archi, and the orchestral piece Parodos. Börtz maintains that The Bacchae relates to his sinfonias, and the same drawn-out symphonic lines of development in the opera can also be found in his instrumental compositions. At the same time, the intimate contact with the human voice influenced his melodic penmanship in a way that affected his overall style. For instance, it was during the rehearsals for The Bacchae at the Stockholm Royal Opera, that Börtz composed his Sinfonia 9, a work in which lyrical melodic lines play a more prominent part than in any of his previous instrumental works.

This new approach to melody is expressed in various ways in his compositions from the 1990s, both in large-scale vocal works like Songs about Death (1992-94) and the opera Marie Antoinette (1997) and in a trilogy of solo concertos whose titles all include the word “Songs”: Songs and Dances for trumpet and orchestra (1994-95), Songs and Shadows for violin and orchestra (1995-96) and Songs and Light for clarinet and orchestra (1998). On the other hand, he only composed one symphony during the 90s, Sinfonia 10 (1991-92). There were 14 years before his 10th was followed by Sinfonia 11. But Börtz never abandoned the symphonic concept, pointing out that it remains in works such as his solo concertos and Songs about Death.

However, there is also a new rhythmic style to Börtz’s music from the 1990s that originates in The Bacchae. In the opera the music of the Bacchae themselves possesses a rhythmic vitality and verve which is totally absent from his previous works. His pre-Bacchae rhythms were non-metric and lacked any concept of tempo in the traditional sense, having only different degrees of eventfulness. In his compositions from the 1990s, however, Börtz makes frequent use of fast-slow tempo shifts and contrasts made possible by a more metric style of writing embodying a distinct pulsating rhythm. The past decade has also seen a far-reaching simplification of rhythm and the manner in which it is notated in his works. Yet this rhythmic simplification is combined with a greater complexity in other respects. Börtz’s music is more eventful and contains greater contrasts than before and the harmonies and instrumentation are richer and more varied.

Joakim Tillman

Selected works:

  • Backanterna - Opera (The Bacchae)
  • En gycklares berättelser (A Joker's Tale - Concerto for Recorder and Orchestra)
  • Goya - Opera
  • Hans namn var Orestes - Oratorio
  • Marie Antoinette - Opera
  • Parodos
  • Pipor och klockor (Pipes and Bells - Concerto for Recorder and Orchestra)
  • Sånger - konsert för piano (Songs - Piano Concerto)