Allan Gravgaard Madsen: Concerto Grosso World Premiere

On 19 May 2022 JACK Quartet and Aarhus Symphony Orchestra will premiere Allan Gravgaard Madsen's 'Concerto Grosso', a work that contains the epic, the romantic and quite a few surprises.

Behind the composition lies a complex web of number systems, inventive obstructions, references to music history and personal tales - Allan Gravgaard Madsen's own as well as the stories of the four soloists.

Centerstage you find one of the greatest capacities in the new music world, the American string quartet JACK Quartet, and various elements in the work derive from the composer's conversations with the musicians. It is a pivotal aspect of Allan Gravgaard Madsen's compositional process to get to know the musicians on a more personal level in order to write music for them. In Concerto Grosso this is manifested in - among other things - a distorted reference to Irving Berlin - the composer behind the favourite lockdown piano repertoire of one of the soloists. And the tempo through most of the first movement matches the running tempo of another soloist.

Allan Gravgaard Madsen talks about his music as standstill and movement: "You have a note which sounds for a long time, but you hear it through various rhythms, registers and timbres. The note is dressed in different colours you might say, and even though the tone itself stands still, it is moving." The entire first movement of Concerto Grosso consists of no more than four notes. Not four random notes, of course, and this is where Gravgaard Madsen's number systems come into play: J, A, C and K are the 10th, 1st, 3rd and 11th letters in the alphabet and transferred to a chromatic scale from the middle C this gives you the notes A, C, D and B flat.

"I believe that the audience will not notice that the material is limited to four notes because the registers, timbre and rhythm constantly change," Allan Gravgaard Madsen explains. "When I limit the musical material to a minimum and start digging into these limitations, I am free to create new possibilities and push it to the limit. That incites a certain presence in the material - and in the musicians when they work with the piece. It is my hope, that the music will capture the audience in that presence."

The Concerto Grosso is filled with techniques and ideas that will capture the attention of the audience. The first movement consists of 23 variations, and the second movement is an extremely short remix of the first movement with just a glimpse of music from each of the 23 variations. In the third movement, a number of jazz chords are layered on top of each other in a descending musical cloud and in the fourth movement the distinction between reality and dream world is dissolved.

When JACK Quartet premieres Gravgaard Madsen's Concerto Grosso it won't be the first time that they perform music by the Danish composer. The relation between the composer and the quartet goes way back. In 2013 the Danish Composers' Society celebrated their 100th anniversary with a series of events and in that context JACK Quartet performed Allan Gravgaard Madsen's string quartet Crystal Tapestry. At that time, the young composer asked them if they would perform at his debut concert if he made it to the soloist programme at the Music Academy. "They said yes without hesitation and they have done that ever since," Allan Gravgaard Madsen says.

Allan Gravgaard Madsen: Concerto Grosso

Thursday 19 May 2022, 19:30

Performed by JACK Quartet, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ryan Bancroft

Symfonisk Sal, Musikhuset Aarhus (DK)

Info and tickets >>