Il Giardino Magico was commissioned by Aarhus Symphony Orchestra and composed in 1967-68. Per Dreier conducted the first performance in 1969. This is one of the first Danish orchestral works where quotation- and collage techniques were employed as a means of expression. Apart from a couple of short motives that appear to be quotations without being so, there are easily recognizable fractions from Wagner’s Tristan, and towards the end of the piece there is a quotation from Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht, which lasts for several bars. Worth noting is also both the instrumentation, where – apart from piano, harpsichord and harp - the percussion section is elaborately scored, and the strings, which have been separated into 24 solo parts.
In the programme for the first performance of Il Giardino Magico in March 1969 the composer considers the aesthetics of the piece and explains the title: ”I started composing the work during a stay in Italy in the Summer of 1967. My starting point was a intense need for a beautiful and refined music in the old-fashioned sense whilst at the same time being sure of the impossibility of such an enterprise. This ambivalence and feeling of helplessness are some of the things dealt with in the work. The title was given to me one day while strolling about the small town of Ravello between Naples and Salerno. I visited Villa Rufolo, which is known mainly for its large and remarkable gardens, and here I felt a strange concordance between the musical ideas I grappled with at the time and this large and somewhat decayed park with its almost blinding variety of colours and its arid and tropical vigour. – At the entrance you could buy postcards with notes: motives from Wagner’s Parsifal. He had once visited the villa during one of his stays in Italy while composing this work. On leaving the garden I saw a marble plaque on the house wall with an inscription which was a quote by Wagner: ”Klingsor’s enchanted garden has been retrieved” – ”Il giardino magico di Klingsor è ritrovato”.