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Reviews

The CD "Rolf Borch Plays Houvenaghel's Organ" is a great and powerful presentation of this young Norwegian performer’s profile as a musician and artist. (…) In Max Reger’s and Johan Sebastian Bach's organ works, in Borch's own arrangements, the polyphonic and saturated timbre of the organ is painted with Borch’s super-clarinet. It works, and it works well! Borch steps forward as a conscious and confident instrumentalist. The pieces he performs are primarily carried by Borch's ability to nuance his sounds, as well as a highly communicative musicality. His own composition is a short and rigorous piece that works great, with two recurring main ideas, in which he reveales the many sound qualities of the contrabass clarinet. (…) In addition to shaping the material, thus increasing intensity and development, he creates a comprehensive work which is also a great contribution to the repertoire. "

Annabel Guaita, Bergens Tidende 

 

Rolf Borch is one of Norway’s finest clarinet players, and he has had a dream of playing the great masters of the organ repertoire - in an organ setting. And he has done something about it. Borch has selected music by Bach, Reger and Frescobaldi - three great composers within the organ genre - and far away from the clarinet genre. In addition we can hear Borch's own organ piece, ”Veils". A piece of music that demonstrates the broad timbral range of the clarinet family. 

Trond Erikson, Den klassiske cd-bloggen

 

"Smilodon" for contrabass clarinet and orchestra, is named after a cat-like animal with enormous fangs that walked around in North America during the last ice age. (…) Rolf Borch is one of our most exciting clarinettists - and the way he handles this large wind instrument is both impressive and exciting. 

Trond Erikson, The classical cd blog

 

When I wrote about Matre’s timing, I could just as well have written clarinetist Rolf Borch’s timing and mastery of his instrument. Matre can orchestrate this intricate for clarinet and orchestra (or a small ensemble, duo with trombone or just the clarinet alone, as in the other works) because Borch’s delicate playing encourages it. Matre’s compositional raw material is Borch's lyrical and introspective sound. The possibilities in Borch's mastery of alternative playing techniques, like playing multiple notes simultaneously by highlighting overtones, percussion-like effects through different mouth techniques, highlighting the sound of the instrument´s mechanics and so on. Matre’s starting point is also Borch’s delicate virtuosity in fast passages and trills. 

Magnus Andersson, Morgenbladet

 

Fantastic soloist, clarinettist Rolf Borch, who plays what can not be played on a clarinet.

Nina Krohn, NRK P2

 

One is impressed by Ørjan Matre and Rolf Borch. Ørjan Matre is among the best in an exciting new generation of Norwegian composers. And one have to admit that "Inside Out" is an impressive debut release, which is promising for future sound adventures. The CD is also a brilliant portrait of clarinettist Rolf Borch. He treats his instrument in a fascinating way, where timbral experiments and rhythmic virtuosity is important results. (…) "Prologue" - solo clarinet - a presentation of a performer with his instrument that instantly creates pleasing vibes in the listener's ears. (…) "Inside Out" - a clarinet concerto with a sharpened Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra - well led by Juanjo Mena. Perhaps the strongest work on the album. Matre really gives us a refined concerto to grow fond of - not least thanks to Rolf Borch's playing. 

Trond Erikson, Smaalenene

 

Part of me worries what will happen to Ferneyhough´s music when it no longer challenges performers. With so much of the expression dependent on pushing human capabillities to the limit, is there anything to take up the slack when that technical investment is no longer so great? It seems so: Time and Motion Study 1 here was gripping stuff. It absolutely justified its excessive demands and, although Borch took those demands in his stride, the piece´s construction remains resistant to a casual, normative mode of listening.

Tim Rutherford-Johnson, Musical Pointers

 

It has become incredibly many talented musicians with an interest in performing contemporary music. The standard in Norway is very high, which also is noted internationally. Rolf Borch is one such musician, and this is his solo album from 2007. Amazing musicality and technique, in combination with curiosity and openness, makes this a valuable recording. Poetic and silent, noisy and rude, and most important; never indifferent.

Lars Petter Hagen, Musikk-kultur

 

Brilliant clarinet playing. (...) When the musician is this good, it seams like also composers who write for him flourish. And clarinetist Rolf Borch is an exceptional musician. That becomes very clear on his double-CD from Aurora, where he plays solo, throughout the release. It is more than enough. And as always, you can hear it right away, in the formation of the tone. He masters the entire register and not least, the transition between the different levels completely seamlessly. And then the sound of a clarinet is among the most sensual things there is.

Stale Wikshåland, Dagbladet

 

It is great that Jon Øivind Ness chose the clarinet as the solo instrument in Bad News from the Desert. A work that oozes frustration over American foreign policy - and soloist Rolf Borch deserves a whole bouquet of flowers for eminent playing both timbrally and technically.

Trond Erikson, Smaalenene

 

This double CD by one of Norway’s most talented young interpreters is an abundant collection of new and older repertoire for the clarinet. His beautiful tone and the vitality and freshness of his interpretations make the task of listening through so much solo music a pleasurable one. (…) Borch’s playing was playful and brilliant. He took on the task of ”drawing sound” in what would be an enviable improvisation. I was completely delighted to encounter his range of sonic capabilities. (…) Borch is at his best in this piece however, and I must say that Kahrs’ piece is a beautiful auditory experience. Borch’s ability to malleably bend and twist seamlessly from one register to the next is remarkable. The lyricism of the piece suits him well. Its conception of musical space and the limits of its projection outwardly and inwardly are performed brilliantly. (…) Ambrosini’s Capriccio intersperses itself between not only a dialect of vocal qualities but also modes of discourse. One is the more internal and under-voiced mode and the other is more extroverted. Borch times the utterance of each very well. I haven’t heard this piece sound better, and I thought it was one of the highlights on the disc. (…) Borch’s malleable tone is at its most elastic in Redgate’s piece. Taffy-like jumps between registers feel like bends in space and time versus actual technical feats. Redgate’s devilishly tricky and somewhat unwieldy piece becomes playful and spontaneous in the hands of Mr. Borch. (…) Rolf Borch has provided us, the listener, a rich and comprehensive vision of the instrument and of his own capabilities. Though it is a long disc it does deserve repeated listening, and it is a rewarding and necessary addition to the library of clarinet repertoire. Furthermore it is a distinct achievement for this fabulous young musician.  

Alex Waterman, Parergon

 

This year's favorite recording earns that title due to Rolf Borch's outstanding dedication to these complex works and his willingness to showcase the expressive sides of each piece. "Step Inside" consists of two CDs with relatively unknown clarinet music. The 80 minutes stretch with clarinet alone could easily become boring. The large palette Borch use to shape his timbre, sounds and phraces - as well as the highly varied works, like Sven Lyder Kahrs’ beautiful and meditative "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" and Magne Hegdal’s contrastfilled "PAR IV" - give the recording the necessary variation, and the main impression can easily be summarized: uncompromising good music, shaped by an uncompromising skilled musician.

Ida Habbestad, Ballade

 

Contemporary music of great format. There is a very special purity in his playing. Suddenly I just want to sit here and listen to the clarinet. (...) It is an album that makes you believe that you have plenty of time. What more can one wish for? Fantastic Rolf Borch merge into an exclusive circle of Norwegian musicians with familiarity with broad international tradition and repertoire. Brilliant! A great record, Rolf Borch’s Step Inside from Aurora.

Erling Sandmo, NRK P2

 

On listening to the music on these Cds one is amazed at what a contemporary clarinettist is capable of! The music is very free and improvisatory and shows off Borch’s vast technique. There are examples of flutter-tounging, glissandi and a jazz-vibrato, which is used as a contrast to the very pure sound Borch usually produces. (…) The final track is +R by Roger Redgate and is probably the best piece on the album for displaying Borch’s phenomenal technique. (…) Borch’s virtuosity is astonishing and his performances must be a delight to watch.

Lynda Baker, Musik Web 

 

Great instrumental versatility and ability to interpret new material. The album is a demonstration of how new music can be shaped, and made available. (...) There is a great technical mastery in what he does. Herein lies the glow of conviction. New music must sound if the world shall go forward. It is in this context a performer like Rolf Borch is an important exponent of an attitude that we all depend on.

Idar Karevoll, Aftenposten

 

Clarinettist Rolf Borch showcases exciting and innovative contemporary works for unaccompanied clarinet, his selection providing a valuable way into this area, the more so because his double CD is able to range so widely around what a modern clarinettist is expected to be able to do. (…) Immersions in these performances leads one into a broader perception of what instrumental music now embraces; one gradually becomes comfortable in this newish world and it sharpens ones perceptions and responses.

Peter Graham Woolf, Musical Pointers  

 

Rolf Borch is about to establish himself among the international top clarinet soloists. His first album in his own name showcases the sound possibilities of the clarinet. (...) Borch has the musical strength to carry British Roger Redgate’s terrible complexities, Sven Lyder Kahrs' and Eivind Buene’s subtleties and microtonality, Magne Hegdal’s compositional attitude-experiments and Mark Adderley’s gestural outbursts.

Magnus Andersson, Morgenbladet

 

The fact that Rolf Borch even learned to play the solo clarinet part in Accanto is an enormous achievement. That he also has the capability to shape and fantasize around the material, commands respect.

Magnus Andersson, Morgenbladet

 

Listening to Helmut Lachenmann Accanto live, was the greatest experience. In recordings the work seems more enigmatic, then when one clearly experience the interaction between tutti and the soloist, Rolf Borch, who is only the third clarinettist to play the concerto, and played it masterly understanding!

Ivar Frounberg, Danish Music Journal

 

"Borch steps forward as a performer who generates important ingredients such as humor, boldness and generosity in his lungs, and blow them through his mouthpiece, to the joy of everyone who listen.

Jon Øystein Flink, Dagsavisen