This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Danish Wikipedia. (March 2009)
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Børresen was descended from a merchant family. As a child, he was given violin, cello and piano lessons. When Børresen made clear to his father that he wished to become a composer, the latter arranged for him to study at the Royal Danish Conservatory in 1895. There he studied composition with Johan Svendsen. After further private studies, his First Symphony was privately premiered in 1901. It made his name as an up-and-coming composer. There followed travels in Germany, France and Belgium, where he made many useful connections. From 1902 on he divided his time between Copenhagen and Skagen where he maintained a second home. Børresen was an important organizer of several Danish music festivals and served as the president of Danish Composers Union between 1924 and 1949. At the time of his death, he was widely regarded as one of Denmark's most important musicians. His opera, The Royal Guest, is widely regarded as the best early 20th Century Danish opera and his chamber music works, though not numerous, received considerable critical praise.
Børresen's style and musical language is primarily that of the late Romantic. His music shows little or no influence from more modern tendencies. Instead, his music takes as its inspiration Danish cultural ideas and folk melodies. As such, he can clearly be regarded, tonally speaking, as a Danish nationalist composer. His style reflects the influence of his teacher Svendsen as well as that of Tchaikovsky. Of particular note is Børresen's gift for melody along with his skillful and effective use of instrumentation. His music is fresh and shows a pronounced optimism. In sum, it can be said that while his music was perhaps a little behind the times, its freshness along with its use of folk melody makes an attractive impression upon the listener. Unfortunately, nowadays, his music is little heard outside of Denmark. In 2009, Edition Silvertrust reprinted his String Sextet in G Major, Op.5