Composer Ib Nørholm has died

Harriet Cochrane Thu 20th June 2019

Born January 24, 1931; died June 10, 2019

Composer Ib Nørholm has died (photo: Per Morten Abrahamsen)

Composer Ib Nørholm has died (photo: Per Morten Abrahamsen)

Danish composer and organist Ib Nørholm has died at the age of 88. In his formative compositional years, Nørholm’s writing was significantly inspired by fellow Danish composer Carl Nielsen, as is evident in his First Symphony, composed between 1956 and 1958. (In total, he composed 12 symphonies, alongside a great deal of solo and chamber works; his Second Symphony, Isola Bella, was commissioned and performed by the Danish RSO in 1971.)

With the emergence of serialism in music in the 1960s, however, Nørholm’s musical style progressed in this new direction. He was interested in the rise of institutions such as the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and was heavily impressed with musicians involved in such societies, including Stockhausen and Boulez. 

Nørholm began his musical studies at the age of nine, and went on to attend the Royal Danish Academy of Music. In the 1970s, Nørholm became associated with the movement referred to as ‘new simplicity’, a style which developed as a reaction against the excessive complexity of avant-garde works at the time. 

Although Nørholm’s music often followed fashionable trends, it retained its personal expression. It didn’t always receive adequate recognition, with Robert Layton writing in Gramophone that Nørholm’s music ‘deserved a wider audience’ (12/94). But 18 years later, the tide had turned: in his review of the Dane’s vocal compositions from the 1960s, Fabrice Fitch wrote that Nørholm was now a ‘prominent’ Danish composer, praising the recording on Dacapo for its display of the composer’s ‘sheer range of styles’ (5/12).

Aside from his compositions, Nørholm was organist at Bethlehem Church in Copenhagen from 1964-98. He also taught at the RDAM as a professor in 1981. 

In terms of accolades, Nørholm won the Gaudeamus International Composers Award in 1964, the Carl Nielsen Prize in 1971 and received a knighthood in 1981. 

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