DANIEL BÖRTZ’ Parodos

Published: 2001-10-10 by Stellan Sagvik

By Bo Wallner (transl. Sven Borei) (Published in Nutida Musik no. 2 1988/89)


There are some lines of poetry at the top of the first page of the score:

“Du musik, som rör vid mitt innersta
och som jag inte kan förklara”.
(Music that touches my core
and that I cannot explain.)

The words are from Göran Sonnevi’s 1973 cycle of poems titled Mozartvariationer. Sonnevi never compromised politically and was able to create sharp, simple formulations. Here, however, we meet another side of him, one that has affected the composer deeply. So deeply in fact that he dedicates his work to his poet friend.

So what does Parados mean? I look it up in a music lexicon without success. Check the Swedish Encyclopaedia without getting the least clue. But it should be in a drama lexicon and so it does: parados, the introductory chorus to a Greek drama.

A ‘gotcha’ thinks the reader, since he knows that Börtz is working on a musical drama project with Ingmar Bergman, using one of the antique dramas as a base. The actual play is The Bacchae by Euripedes and maybe this is an overture. But the timing is wrong. The commission by the Radio Symphony, who also get a dedication, came as early as at new year 1987 and the final date is September 10 of the same year.


The work begins in a rapid tempo, energetically and very strongly using a rhythmic construct some of us probably recognise – an allusion or simple a starter? However, it becomes clear rather soon is that the figure returns often as some sort of thematic column.

Immediately following the first bar we find ourselves in a typical Börtzian sonoral landscape, characterised by intense ‘scraping’ in the strings. The winds take over in rising, chromatic lines that eventually empty into an impetuoso with the strongest nuances imaginable. This music is as dramatic as the sixth and seventh symphonies, a music from which expressive melodies grow in the strings. Weak confronts strong in violent contrasts. Soon the weak nuances dominate. The rhythm theme returns in the high xylophones. We are on our way into a singing, poetic music.

And with this the roles are described.

The events in Börtz’ score thereafter are a development of the ideas using the insights and imagination of the born symphony composer. Some of the pages of the score become magnificent in their inventiveness and density. Still there is a hesitancy to call this music symphonic, especially if one remembers the immense dramas that transpire in the symphonies named above, those idea-dramas offering music with a spell-binding message.

Within the requirements of Börtz’ tonal language, Parados seems soonest some sort of performing piece, like a type of concert overture to use a more traditional genre identification.

A performing piece:
The thought isn’t foreign, in part because Daniel Börtz is more a player than most of his composing colleagues, though not in the playful spirit of the Neo-classists. In some reminiscences over Lars-Erik Larsson in one of the autumn numbers of Concert News, Hans Eklund relates that he would often encourage his students to ‘go easy’ with their means of expression. Not so with Börtz. He is more interested in exploding confines, not least dynamic ones. Still, when faced with much of his tonal language, you still get the sense that he is a musician among musicians. This is clearly true in the spring 1988 when the third string quartet was first performed.

A phrase from Brahms pops into his mind. He doesn’t push it out, doesn’t take standing against tradition, but accepts the inspiration he experiences. But eventually the confines are broken through here as well and violent outbursts force their way forwards. The tension poles are established – the lyrically singing versus the aggressive, tradition against a strong experience.

Surely a portrait of Daniel Börtz!


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