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Koppel: Concerto For Violin And Accordion, Concerto For Saxophone And Piano

Release Date: 06/24/2008 
Label:  Dacapo   Catalog #: 8226055   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Anders Koppel
Performer:  Christina ĹstrandBjarke MogensenBenjamin KoppelRikke Sandberg
Conductor:  John Storgĺrds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A. KOPPEL Violin and Accordion Concerto. Saxophone and Piano Concerto John Storgårds, cond; Christina Åstrand (vn); Bjarke Morgensen (acc); Benjamin Koppel (sax); Rikke Sandberg (pn); Danish Natl SO dacapo 8.226055 (67:56)

The A. Koppel here is Anders, born 1947 in Copenhagen, and son of the more widely known—at least in classical music circles—Herman D. A third generation of the Koppel clan is represented here by Anders’s sax-playing son Benjamin. While the works of Herman D. have found some Read more currency on record, and a number of those recordings have been reviewed in these pages, I find few recorded listings for Anders and none in the Fanfare archive.

With his older brother Thomas, Anders formed Savage Rose, one of Scandinavia’s leading experimental rock groups. It wasn’t long, however, before the brothers parted ways. Anders went on to find his bliss in the motion picture industry, composing scores for over 150 films. He has also written a number of ballets, as well as incidental music to some 50 plays. And as a performing musician, he has played for nearly 25 years in Trio Bazaar, an ensemble dedicated to promoting Balkan-inspired music. This may explain the unusual combinations of instruments Anders seems to gravitate towards in his classically oriented concert works. In addition to the two double concertos on this disc, there are works for vibraphone and marimba.

A pianist I once knew, who was even more hostile to hardcore musical modernism than I am (if that’s possible), commented that the only concerto combination left to try was one for mynah bird and vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to hear Ander Koppel’s 2001, revised 2007, Concerto for Violin and Accordion, or 2006 Concerto for Saxophone and Piano. For if he had, I think he’d have been pleasantly surprised; I certainly was.

The violin/accordion concerto is a frothy delight. Whether Koppel intended it to be funny or not I can’t say, but I don’t use the word “funny” in a derogatory sense. Rather, it’s meant to describe a score that is full of musical high jinks, high-energy propulsion, high-spirited fun, and good, old-fashioned high camp. Koppel’s music is free of tonality in the conventional sense, but at major points of formal articulation lands on triadic cadences, which only contributes to its quirky sense of humor. There’s a bit of Milhaud, Honegger, Stravinsky, Gunther Schuller, and Philip Glass in this score. For the latter, listen to the ostinato-like bustling figuration in the orchestra at the beginning of the last movement, and then about three minutes later, where it’s taken up by the solo violin. Modernistic it is, but overall, I found this to be a most accessible and really entertaining piece.

The Milhaud connection comes to mind again at the beginning of the Concerto for Saxophone and Piano, which vaguely recalls the French composer’s La création du monde . Soon, however, it morphs into the kind of Mickey Spillane film-noire style of music that accompanies the lonely detective in trench coat and broad-brimmed hat tracking his prey through dark, dank, deserted alleyways. Koppel’s M.O. in this concerto is more somber and serious. The contents of the first movement are clearly derived from the cool (as opposed to hot), bluesy, torch-song style of jazz with its pathetic wails on the saxophone. Readers may be surprised at my reaction to this music; but I find myself strongly attracted to the sound of the saxophone (an instrument my father played) and this type of music that seems to fit its personality so well. I found this to be an incredibly beautiful and moving score.

Performances and recording are excellent. I may not go quite so far as to place this on my Want List, but I highly recommend it.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins

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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin and Accordion by Anders Koppel
Performer:  Christina Ĺstrand (Violin), Bjarke Mogensen (Accordion)
Conductor:  John Storgĺrds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 31 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Concerto for Saxophone and Piano by Anders Koppel
Performer:  Benjamin Koppel (Saxophone), Rikke Sandberg (Piano)
Conductor:  John Storgĺrds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 36 Minutes 7 Secs. 

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