Symphony No. 3

By Erling Kullberg

    Composed 1972-75

    1st performance 2 September 1976. Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Radio Choir. Conducted by: Herbert Blomstedt.

    Length 50 minutes.

The Third Symphony is the most monumental expression of the ideas and tendencies that marked Per Nørgård's work as a composer for many years up to the middle of the 1970s.

As is generally the case with Nørgård's oeuvre, this symphony is a musical answer to a question posed at the level of general epistemology. For many years he had attempted to study and discover why it is that all things in the world seem to be interrelated, both large and small. He became more and more convinced that there was an all-embracing cosmic connection, and this idea forms the theme of the Third Symphony.

The symphony thus becomes a microcosmic portrayal of this cosmic harmony - the apotheosis of universal harmony. It is this in virtue of its general hymn-like character and of the compositional technique used: everything in the work is derived from the infinity series.
No wonder that while he was working on the symphony the composer referred to the work as his Te Deum.

The symphony was commissioned by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. The many-layered structure and complicated rhythms of the work, which were a result of the hierarchical technique of composition, appeared strange and new, not least to the composer himself. For this reason, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation put its symphony orchestra at Per Nørgård's disposal to try out ideas and experiments before they reached their final form - a very remarkable offer, one must admit.