Making their way from Lincoln Center in Manhattan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and beyond, the world-renowned Trio con Brio Copenhagen has embarked on an extensive tour of the United States, performing in celebrated concert halls and unleashing the unique contemporary music of Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen on audiences nationwide.
The Trio has won most international competitions for piano trios and was the first ensemble to receive one of Denmark’s most prestigious music awards — the “P2 Artist Prize.”
#DenmarkInNY caught up with the ensemble’s pianist, Jens Elvekjær, to learn about the differences between American and Danish audiences and the emotions of playing America’s most grandiose concert halls.
DNY: What is it like as an ensemble to perform on American stages and at illustrious venues such as Lincoln Centre and the National Gallery of Art?
JE: It is always a great and exciting moment when you perform in these very acclaimed and important concert halls, but as every other place you always need to try to connect to the audience and to convey the music you are performing as well as you can. For these two concerts, we have had quite different programs — the one in Lincoln Center features, among others, Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen’s Traumlieder and the concert at the National Gallery has the title “To travel is to live.” This is obviously inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s famous quote and combines his travels and acquaintances with famous composers from that time.
At Lincoln Center you introduced American audiences to new music by Hans Abrahamsen. How do you think his music was received?
At the moment, Danish composers are very highly valued not only in the United States but also worldwide. Hans Abrahamsen — who transcribed one of his earlier works for our trio — is one of the major living Danish composers with a very personal and distinct voice. His compositions are made of an extremely concentrated material, almost like a distillate, and have an element of mystery. I believe the ability to create a special atmosphere is one of the reasons that his music communicates so well. At the concert in Lincoln Center, the audience was very attentive and drawn into the music. For me personally it is great when speaking to people after the concert I see that many people want to buy recordings of the Danish contemporary.
Do you find that American audiences differ from European ones and, if so, how?
The American audience is, as in Europe, very different from place to place. Maybe the reaction can be more or less intense in different places but this is probably more a question of culture as when you compare Italy and Scandinavia. Generally speaking the American audience is very positive, curious and receptive!
Do you feel your rootedness in the Danish music tradition has an impact when your ensemble performs abroad?
In America, the audiences love to have a specific connection to the musicians and I think that people who have roots in Scandinavia or have lived or travelled to Denmark can certainly feel a connection.
What are your ambitions for Trio con Brio in the US music scene for the coming years? Are there special goals you would like to achieve or a special new repertoire you would like to bring to the US?
We have been performing extensively in the US throughout the last 15 years and we are looking forward to continuing that. We would like to do a complete cycle of the Beethoven trios in one of the major concert halls and present unique Danish contemporaries to an even larger audience!
Emma Petrine Søgaard Jensen, Culture and Public Diplomacy Intern at Denmark In NY.