Lars Ulrik Mortensen is a Danish harpsichordist and conductor. Music has been central to his life since he climbed onto a piano stool at the age of three. He sang in the Danish Radio Boys' Choir, graduated from a Copenhagen high school with a specialisation in music, and then spent a few years playing in the rock band Culpeper's Orchard. When Mortensen began studying musicology at university, he came across a book about English music for the virginal, a smaller version of the harpsichord. He was deeply fascinated, and the music it described led him to the only keyboard instrument he had not yet played: the harpsichord. It was love at first delicate note: Lars Ulrik Mortensen decided to become a harpsichordist. He first studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen (harpsichord with Karen Englund, figured bass with Jesper Bøje Christensen) and then with
Trevor Pinnock in London.
From 1988 to 1990 Lars Ulrik Mortensen was harpsichordist with London Baroque and from 1990 to 1993 he was a member of
Collegium Musicum 90 (Leader:
Simon Standage). Together with John Holloway and David Watkin he is also a member of the Trio Veracini.
After a long association with the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO) as harpsichord tutor and guest director, Lars Ulrik Mortensen became its Music Director in 2004. In 2011, he will give 14 concerts in 6 European countries with
EUBO, inspiring and guiding its young musicians to give exciting, thrilling and accomplished performances. A Financial Times reviewer, writing after a
EUBO concert, said “Mortensen is exceptional not just for his scholarship and virtuosity at the keyboard, but also because he makes music with his entire body and soul.” In his home country Lars Ulrik is the artistic director of
Concerto Copenhagen (CoCo). In 2000 he made his conducting debut at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen to great critical acclaim. Since then his opera productions with
Concerto Copenhagen at this Theatre, including
George Frideric Handel's Giulio Cesare and Partenope, Mozart's Idomeneo, Marriage of Figaro and La Clemenza di Tito, and Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulysse in Patria, have helped to build a profile for the group nationally and internationally.
In addition to his work with his ”own” orchestras, Lars Ulrik Mortensen also performs extensively as guest director, soloist and chamber musician in Europe, the USA, Mexico, South America, Japan and Australia, performing regularly with distinguished colleagues such
Emma Kirkby, Maria Keohane,
John Holloway and Jaap ter Linden, as well as with chamber ensembles such as The Consort of Musicke and Red Byrd..
Lars Ulrik Mortensen has recorded extensively for numerous labels including DGG-Archive, EMI and Kontrapunkt. His many CD recordings have reaped major prizes and awards, among them the Danish Music Critics´ Award in 1984. His recording of J.S. Bach´s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) was awarded the French "Diapason d´Or". A series of
Dietrich Buxtehude recordings for the Danish label Dacapo has met with universal critical acclaim. It includes the first complete recording of
D. Buxtehude´s chamber music with
John Holloway and Jaap ter Linden, which received the Danish "Grammy" Award for best classical recording of the year; a CD of cantatas with
Emma Kirkby was awarded another "Grammy", and Lars Ulrik Mortensen became "Danish Musician of the Year 2000" for his three CD´s with harpsichord music by
D. Buxtehude. These recordings also received the "Cannes Classical Award 2001". Other recordings include the sonatas "Unarum Fidium" by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer with
John Holloway and Aloysia Assenbaum, which was released on the prestigious ECM New Series label in 1999. Directing
Concerto Copenhagen, his recent recordings include the complete harpsichord concertos by J.S. Bach, which received lavish praise in the international press, Haydn piano concertos (with soloist Ronald Brautigam), as well as symphonies by Danish composers Hartmann, Kunzen and Gerson.
Lars Ulrik Mortensen is also a renowned teacher: Professor for Harpsichord and Performance Practice at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich from 1996 to 1999, he teaches at numerous courses for Baroque music throughout the world. He is a member of the juries of several international harpsichord competitions.
Lars Ulrik Mortensen has received a number of prizes for his music-making, among them the Danish Music Critics Award, the Danish Radio DMA/P2 award, and in 2007 he received Denmark’s most prestigious music award, the Léonie Sonning Music Prize. In 2008 he was made a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.
Lars Ulrik Mortensen believes that performing on original instruments (or copies) is of crucial importance: "What fascinates me about baroque orchestras is their rhythmic and sensual character, as well as the tonal colours of the instruments used, and the freedom - allowing the music to arise spontaneously as you are playing. And besides, I believe it simply sounds better."