Fantasy on Two Danish Tunes (2009)


A work in flute and organ; dedicated to Eva Østergaard and Heinrich Christensen; premiered Sunday, November 22, 2009, 4:00 P.M. at St. John's Church, Gloucester, Massachusetts; performed by Eva Østergaard (flute) and Heinrich Christensen (organ).


Program notes from the King's Chapel concert, November 29, 2009:

Fantasy on Two Danish Tunes was composed for tonight’s King’s Chapel concert expressly for Eva Østergaard and Heinrich Christensen.  Eva and Heinrich share a long history together: they are from the same town in Denmark (Fredericia); both were young music students in the same conservatory preparatory program, the Musikalsk Grundkursus, designed to foster the development of talented youth; and Eva’s mother Anna was Heinrich’s first organ teacher. Knowing that Eva and Heinrich would be performing together, I decided to compose a work that would acknowledge and celebrate their intertwined past.  I asked each of them to supply me with a simple Danish tune that was dear to them, and then set about integrating these two tunes into the fabric of a new composition.

The tune that Heinrich supplied is Drømte mig en drøm i nat (roughly translated as “Last night I dreamt of silk and fur”), an ancient Danish tune considered to be the oldest known notated song of the Nordic countries.  This tune is deeply embedded in the collective psyche of a particular generation of Danes, as it was used for many years as the theme music marking the intersession between radio programs in the earliest days of the Danish national radio broadcasts.  Eva supplied me with a remarkably complementary tune, but of a very different nature and history.  This melody was composed by her mother to the text Du skal plante et træ ("You have to plant a tree") by Halvdan Knudsen.  Eva has known this piece of music most of her life, but although the tune has deep personal meaning, it is relatively obscure in comparison to Drømte mig en drøm i nat.

The fantasy opens with a non-metered, chant-like exposition of Drømte mig en drøm i nat for the flute unaccompanied. (This freely-metered device is mirrored at the end of the work, when both tunes are revisited together in alternation between the organ and flute.)  The organ enters in a supportive role as the flute line develops the ancient Danish tune material.  We hear the first iteration of the “Eva” melody with solo organ, which again is developed with the next entrance of the flute.  Throughout the work, organ and flute pass the two tunes back and forth, leapfrogging the musical materials as they go.