Koppels represent a remarkable Danish artistic dynasty. The
father Herman D. Koppel (1908–1998) was a distinguished composer
whose music is now gaining some deserved recognition through
commercial recordings. The two daughters Therese and Lone
are pianist and singer respectively, whereas the two sons
Thomas (1944–2006) and Anders are both composers with widely
varied outputs to their credit. Not so long ago, I reviewed
a disc of Thomas Koppel’s pieces for recorder (DaCapo 8.226021
- see review). Now comes another with Anders Koppel’s works
for saxophone and orchestra played by Benjamin Koppel, Anders’ son;
a family affair indeed! Besides these three works, Anders
composed several chamber works with or for saxophone and,
quite recently, a Concerto for Saxophone,
Piano and Orchestra (2005), too recent to be included
on this disc.
two Koppel saxophone concertos here are of joyfully eclectic,
extrovert and exuberant music that does not take itself too
seriously, although each has its darker moments. The First
Concerto, composed in 1992, was drastically revised in 2004.
We are told that it is longer than the original version,
and that the scoring has been altered to make fuller use
of a broader orchestral palette. The First Saxophone Concerto
is the most eclectic of the two. The composer’s liking for
exotic and jazzy rhythms blends with some slightly tongue-in-cheek
Neo-classicism. The jovial character of the first movement
is enhanced by the use of the brighter, more agile soprano
instrument. This is particularly evident in the outer movements,
for the central Adagio is a more serious affair in which
the soloist changes to the darker alto saxophone more suited
to the Mahlerian dirge-like mood of the movement. Anders
Koppel’s earlier experience in jazz and rock also shows in
the improvised cadenzas and in the rhythmic variety generously
displayed; but there are also many imaginative touches throughout.
The dreamy, ethereal opening of the first movement is particularly
fine; but is rapidly offset by some joyful energy, obviously
a hallmark of this composer.
Second Saxophone Concerto is scored for alto saxophone and
orchestra, and its five movements are played without a break.
This certainly emphasises the symphonic structure of the
work, although each movement is neatly characterised. Moreover,
the music is much more integrated, less overtly eclectic
than in the First Saxophone Concerto; and, as such, much
more satisfying in musical terms. Again, there are many fine
things such as the beautifully atmospheric, dream-like introduction,
not unlike that of the First Saxophone Concerto. The emotional
weight of the work again lies in the long central Largo.
The other movements again offer ample scope for brilliant,
virtuosic writing and imaginative scoring.
attractive release ends with a delightful miniature. Swan
Song was originally composed as the title theme for
a radiophonic adaptation of Selma Lagerlöf’s well-known novel Niels
Holgersen’s Wonderful Journey. As might be expected,
the music is simple, tuneful, fairly straightforward but
expertly done. The present version for alto saxophone, harp
and strings is a real delight. Light music of the highest
order, and quite beautiful in its own way.
fine, attractive and enjoyable works certainly do not attempt
to plumb any great depths; but they are superbly made by
a composer who obviously has a flair for telling orchestral
textures. The music is colourful, tuneful, full of lively
rhythms; but is certainly not as simple as it sounds, for
it has its shares of tricky bits splendidly negotiated by
Benjamin Koppel and wholeheartedly supported by the Odense
Symphony Orchestra who obviously enjoy themselves enormously.
First class recording, a bit on the bright side but perfectly
suited to Koppel’s heart-warming music.