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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Herman D. KOPPEL (1908-1998)
Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet Op. 36 (1942) [17.27]
Niels Viggo BENTZON (1919-2000)

Wind Quintet No. 5 Op. 116 (1958) [16.36]
Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet Op. 278 (1971) [18.39]
Nikolaj Bentzon (piano)
Wind Quintet of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
rec. 20-24 Nov 2000 DR Concert Hall
DACAPO 8.224208 [52.42]


Large ensemble chamber music from two of the three pillars of Danish twentieth century music.

Koppel's wartime Sextet is ruthlessly playful and sharply rhythmic in the A la marche first movement. This contrasts with music that is alive with Gallic sentiment except when occasionally leaning towards the pastoral idylls of Nielsen. The second movement is a gift of pastoral expression tapping into the tradition of Danish rustic song mingled with onomatopoeic birdsong. The writing, which is full of ruddy life, is tart but never betraying any dissonance. The lively piano work in the finale has a jazzy overtone - Ravel meets Nancarrow. This is a work you will want to return to repeatedly ... and not from any sense of duty.

The Bentzon Sextet is for the same ensemble forces as the Koppel. It was a commission of the Esbjerg Ensemble who premiered it on 31 March 1972. Like the Quintet you occasionally catch glimpses of Nielsen but mixed in are hints of the anarchic Shostakovich, protesting dissonant punctuation and a again certain ruthlessness. The piano's hoarse full-stop at the end of the slow calm of the Largo is memorable. This leads to the switchback Allegro finale which yet finds time for romance in the over-melody contributed by the horn at 3.01.

Bentzon's Op. 116 Wind Quintet is mournful and haunted by comparison with Koppel. While Koppel's Sextet bears the impress of Gallic jollity, jazzy entertainment and the Danish lyric stream, Bentzon here writes music that is aware of a much more inimical world, full of uncertainty and a fate that is not necessarily benign. It is all determinedly tonal but even the upbeat finale seems overhung with storm clouds.

The playing is topflight and although it is invidious to single anyone out I was impressed by the designedly hollow flavour of the oboe playing of Max Artved at the start of the finale of the Bentzon Quintet. As for recording quality this is warmer and slightly more 'hazed' than I am used to from this source but agreeable nonetheless. The extensive background notes are by Bertel Krarup.

The pianist is the son of the composer and the recording sessions took place during the year of the composer's death. Nikolaj Bentzon studied piano with his father and then with Anker Blyme, himself an authoritative interpreter of Bentzon's music who recorded an anthology for Danacord and this is reviewed here.

The Koppel is the easy winner but the two Bentzon pieces will reward persistence.

Rob Barnett

See also review by Dave Billinge

 



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