World premiere · Morten Olsen · The Heart of Darkness

Morten Olsen has created “The Heart of Darkness”, a violin concerto for solo violinist Anne Søe and Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen. Edition·S interviewed the composer about the piece, which will receive its world premiere November 9 in KoncertKirken, Copenhagen.

Morten Olsen / Photo: Morten Rasmussen

Morten Olsen has been the composer in residence at Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen for two years. The residency will end with this 40-minute violin concerto, written for the occasion. Furthermore, conductor Christopher Austin, who has recorded a number of Olsen's works, has been invited to conduct the piece, especially for the occasion.

View event here · Buy tickets here · Read more about the composer here

Athelas has named the event The light in the darkness/the darkness in the light, and in his new violin concerto, Morten Olsen addresses the darkness. The darkness within. 

The inner darkness might be a source of inspiration in all my works, but this work particularly addresses the darkness within. And I don't mean the melancholic kind of darkness. It takes on the real darkness, the dangerous kind, because the dangerous kind of inner darkness takes something more of you to get rid of. It takes courage. 

The title, the Heart of Darkness, does it have any connection to the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness or Coppolas movie Apocalypse Now?

No, the title is not a reference to them, it is a phrase I use in my own way. The title touches upon the dark side everyone carries within. In this way, it contrasts the niceness which we are exposed to every day - the neat outside that people want to reveal - the phenomenon of only revealing the joyful pictures of your kids for example - not the screaming, stubborn kids who won’t walk down the stairs on their own.  

Phrased otherwise, Morten Olsen says in Athelas’ interview that the darkness within is “the mood in the music”. We move on to the process of creating the violin concerto and ask the composer, how the Heart of Darkness came into being.

I guess all composers carry around a stream of music in their minds every day. The process is about getting familiar with this music - to get to know it. In The Heart of Darkness, you might detect small references to my favourite violin concertos by Alban Berg or Beethoven. One might even intercept references to composers I don’t know are there. 

This is your second violin concerto. What is different with this one compared to the first?

The two violin concertos behave in completely different ways. The structure is different. My first violin concerto had three movements in a more old fashioned manner, one could say. The Heart of Darkness consists of one, long flow where the pieces drift in and out of one another. Also, the beginning of my first violin concerto was sudden and loud, the beginning of Heart of Darkness is quite silent and still. In this way, the piece is made to open the ears of the audience. Because when very little happens, you listen more carefully.   

You have been collaborating with violinist and concertmaster Anne Søe, how has this influenced The Heart of Darkness?

I know Anne’s work very well, and this has been an important influence as I have been able to tailor the piece to her strongest suits. 

And the other way around, Anne Søe says in Athelas’ interview, that she has been able to follow Olsen’s process of the violin concerto closely and thus have come to know the idea and structure of the concerto intimately.

Watch Athelas Sinfonietta’s interview with Anne Søe and Morten Olsen here 

View event here · Buy tickets here · Read more about the composer here

The Heart of Darkness will be performed among other pieces of which one is also an Edition·S collaborating composer, Jesper Koch. His new piece Poetry is the darkness in the light will also world premiere. The piece will be published by Edition·S. 

Afterwards, Edition·S and Dacapo Records are inviting all participants to a release reception of Jesper Koch's album Dreamscapes.