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Sunleif Rasmussen

Born: 1961

Nationality: Faroese

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Photo © Lars Skaaning

The Faroese composer Sunleif Rasmussen, more than anyone, has put the small wind-swept Atlantic islands on the musical map of the world. In 2002 he was the first Faroese ever to win the Nordic Council’s Music Prize for his Symphony no. 1 Oceanic Days (1995). In many ways Sunleif Rasmussen’s aesthetic approach gives meaning to the concept of Nordic music.

Sunleif Rasmussen was born on Sandoy – ‘Sand Island’ –and the Faroese landscape and culture both play an important role in Sunleif Rasmussen’s music; not in the sense that the music paints the fury of the elements, the omnipresent Atlantic Ocean or audibly draws on Faroese folk music and mythology. The references and associations are far more subtle. The national melodic material is split up into its smallest fragments and most of all has the function of musical building blocks. Nature is an important framework of understanding and thinking for the music and aesthetics. 

In the symphony Oceanic Days percussion and electronics are placed around the audience. Sunleif Ras­mussen himself describes the underlying idea as follows: “The audience is like a group of islands at the centre of the events, surrounded by sound.” In the period 2008-2009 Sunleif Rasmussen was composer-in-residence for the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra and in the period 2009-2010 for Ars Nova Copenhagen.

A long succession of prominent orchestras and ensembles are at present commissioning and playing works by Sunleif Rasmussen: the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Lap­land Chamber Orchestra, Theatre of Voices and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble.

The succession of conductors and soloists who have performed Sunleif Rasmussen’s music is also impressive: John Storgårds, Paul Hillier, the recorder virtuoso Michala Petri, the singer Bo Skovhus and others.

Hjarne Fessel 2014
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