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At-A-Glance

Length: c. 24 minutes

About this Piece

Sørensen’s Papillons is a trilogy of works from 2013-14, written for his wife, pianist Katrine Gislinge. All three of these works – Pantomime and Rosenbad, in addition to Mignon – take the same elegantly expressive piano music and recontextualize it with different accompaniment and the seven movements reordered. “For me, it is a quite cinematic form,” Sørensen says. “One could say, that it is the same story (the piano part) told three different ways, and at the same time three different stories told by the same person (the piano player).”

For Mignon, the surrounding – literally! – instrumental context is strings: an orchestral group, two quartets, and two solo violins, positioned spatially around the performing space. Sørensen exploits the strings for the kind of sounds the piano cannot easily create: sliding glissandos, swelling and fading sustained chords, feathery scratch- ings, muted murmurs. And he extends his musicians’ techniques beyond their actual instruments, asking the string players to hum a minor third (an important motivic interval for the work) together in the fifth movement and to rub sandpaper blocks in the trem- bling final moments, as the piano ends on that same minor third and the music rustles into darkness, the friction of bow on strings reduced to sandpaper on wood.

This is spare, lyrical music, flirting with silence throughout. It does rise to passionate outbursts, but tender evanescence is more characteristic. There are suggestions of Bach and Mozart in the first two movements, like music remembered in a dream, a music that lives on in the clarity of Sørensen’s writing and its delicate nostalgia.

— John Henken