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Anders KOPPEL  (born 1947)
Concerto for Violin, Accordion and Orchestra (2001, rev. 2007) [31:49]
Concerto for Saxophone, Piano and Orchestra (2006)
Christina Åstrand (violin); Bjarke Mogensen (accordion); Benjamin Koppel (saxophone); Rikke Sandberg (piano); Danish National Symphony Orchestra-DR/John Storgårds
rec. 9-10 November 2006 (Saxophone and Piano Concerto) and 4-6 June 2007 (Violin and Accordion Concerto), no venue mentioned, presumably Danish Radio
DACAPO 8.226055 [67:56]


Experience Classicsonline

Not that long ago I reviewed another Dacapo disc (8.226036 – Works for saxophone and orchestra) devoted to works by the Danish composer Anders Koppel. In that review I went into a certain length describing the composer’s family and artistic background, and I think it best to refer the reader to that review in view of not repeating myself unduly. Suffice it to say that Anders Koppel has composed a great number of concertos so far including the afore-mentioned saxophone concertos and this pair of double concertos for some rather unusual instrumental duos.

The earliest of them, the Concerto for Violin, Accordion and Orchestra was composed in 2001 and revised in 2007. I suppose that some – considering the soloists’ line-up – will think of, say, Astor Piazzolla; and I must say that the music often reminds one of the Argentine composer (mostly in the first movement), and none the worse for that because I for one regard Piazzolla as one of the most personal and original voices of his generation in South America. Moreover, Anders Koppel is admittedly a tango fan. His music, however, is consistently well-crafted, colourful and full of lively rhythms, even if it may sound a bit too eclectic to some tastes. The second movement for example is based on a 17th century hymn-tune. One could not find anything more at odd with the joyfully Latin-American exuberance of the first movement. The movement, however, is cast as a theme and variations of sorts, which allows for a lot of contrasting sections (one might momentarily be reminded of Prokofiev here). The third movement is a short virtuosic, slightly ironic toccata-like Scherzo ending abruptly, whereas the final movement is again on a fairly large scale, though not quite so as the ample first movement; but the overall mood of the concluding movement is considerably tenser and more serious with some more unsettling dissonance than in the preceding movements. A somewhat eerie and ghostlike cadenza leads into the bright and consolatory coda. As a whole, however, the work leaves a somewhat uneasy impression with his blend of playful fantasy and utter seriousness.

The Concerto for Saxophone, Piano and Orchestra is one of Koppel’s more recent concertos. It was composed for the pianist Rikke Sandberg and the saxophonist Benjamin Koppel, the composer’s son. Unlike the Violin and Accordion Concerto, the Saxophone and Piano Concerto is laid-out in two movements. The first movement opens in a dreamlike mood soon to be shattered by the ensuing music. “The dream almost becomes a nightmare” (Jens Cornelius in his excellent insert notes). A wild dance-like section emerges from the climax. Thereafter the music makes progressively its way back to the calm opening mood. From the outset, however, one feels that the music will be denser and rather more serious. (Curiously enough I had the same impression when comparing Koppel’s saxophone concertos, the second of which I found – and still do – musically much more integrated and thus more satisfying, no matter how enjoyable the First Saxophone Concerto was and actually is.) Unlike its predecessor, the second movement opens and closes with fast sections framing a central slower one. It opens with propulsive and often capricious rhythms encompassing some mambo rhythms that remind one of the composer’s musical background, e.g. in ‘popular’ music such as jazz and rock. The central section culminates in a big climax before the onslaught of the final section bringing at long last some sort of resolution. It must also be noted that given Benjamin Koppel’s background in jazz and improvised music, the score of the Saxophone and Piano Concerto includes improvised sections in the saxophone’s part although “the audience must not notice when the improvisation begins and ends” (the composer’s words).

Anders Koppel’s music is superbly crafted, colourful, often beautiful and at times rather gripping in spite – or because of – its eclecticism, although the latter is never overdone and anyway eschews any vulgarity. The music is accessible and often strongly expressive although it must be rather taxing on the performers’ part. This is obviously not a problem for these musicians who play the music for all it is worth with accomplished technical expertise and profound understanding. The recording and production are again up to Dacapo’s best standards.

Hubert Culot



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