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Bent Sørensen

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Den Lille Havfrue (2005)
Work Notes
til BBC og DR
Text Writer
H.C.Andersen/Peter Asmussen
Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
27 Minutes
SA chor
Soprano, Tenor
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Programme Note
Bent Sørensen Den Lille Havfrue (2005)
The Little Mermaid text is written by the Danish playwright Peter Asmussen, who also wrote the libretto for my opera Under the Sky (2004). The text is based on the fairytale The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen and Peter Asmussen only uses Andersen’s words shortened to form a kind of poem telling the story in three movements: The Tempest, The Silence and The Party.

A lot of the words are put into the mouth of the soprano soloist, while other parts of the Mermaid-text are sung by the girls’ choir, who on one hand tell the story and on the other hand play the roles of the little mermaid’s sisters. While the female voices are telling/playing out the little mermaid’s story, a tenor sings quotations from the diary of Hans Christian Andersen, ending with the very last words he wrote in his diary. So in a way the piece points towards the death of both Andersen and the little mermaid.

The music - together with the text - forms a kind of semi-dramatic piece. And the music itself is very much inspired by the headlines: Tempest/Storm, Silence and Party. All the way through the music is soft - even the storm is soft and gentle in the music - trying to find a translation in music of the childlike nature of the fairytale. I think I tried to transform the purity of the girls’ choir’s voices into the orchestral sound.

- Bent Sørensen 2005

Score preview

  • Ensemble
    Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Thomas Dausgaard
    Da Capo:
”Sørensen’s favored multilayer principle meant that the Danish Radio girls' choir sang, while tonal vocal soloists moved among the cobwebs, with thin straw knees, and sarcastic trombone outbursts.”
Thomas Anderberg,,21/08/2005
“Sørensen’s music – pristine, pregnant with meaning and encapsulating that strange oxymoronic feeling endemic in Danish music of a rough-hewn delicacy – made its point with real assurance, whether marshalling the spatially separated forces or homing in on some barely audible atmospheric commentary, its wave-like motion a recurring feature.”
Matthew Rye, The Telegraph ,15/08/2005
”As a Dane, you could only be proud”
Knud Ketting , Jyllandsposten,15/08/2005
“a masterwork of fresh response and heightened imagination” (5 out of 6 stars)
Hillary Finch, Radio 3,01/01/0001
”Despite the delicate movements in the orchestra - mournfully diving, gently rocking in barcarole rhythm – The audience had the opportunity to take full advantage of the music.” (4 out of 6 stars)
Thomas Michelsen , Magasinet Klassisk,01/01/0001
”The effect was as if a christmas carol had been analysed into its harmonic spectra and reconstituted in its glassy, glissandoing orchestral half-tones, sometimes almost inaudible.”
Marlene Ottosen, ,01/01/0001
“It was a true poem in sound, and the most striking new work in the season so far.”
Marlene Ottosen, ,01/01/0001
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