ANDERS KOPPEL (b.1947): Concerto for Recorder, Saxophone and Orchestra, Triple Concerto for Alto Saxophone, Cello, Harp and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 06Q083
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: If you've previously enjoyed Koppel's many concerti for unusual solo instruments and unlikely combinations thereof, you won't need any encouragement to buy this hugely enjoyable disc. A thoroughly accomplished composer of concert music with a background in rock, jazz and film, Koppel has created an unique synthesis of styles, ingeniously tonal, strongly rhythmic, with an effervescent sense of fun and delight in instrumental virtuosity. The double concerto exploits the fact that the solo instruments, about as timbrally diverse as you can get, share a similar degree of agility and flexibility, playfully tossing ideas back and forth with the kind of gleeful 'anything you can do ...' spirit of members of a jazz band, playing off each other's improvisational skills. The propulsive, incessantly syncopated first movement treats the orchestra in the style of a big band, establishing a memorable riff and running with it while the soloists chase each other around it. The slow movement is a kind of free passacaglia, one of a number of references to baroque forms in the piece, acknowledging the recorder's more familiar idiom, and cleverly blending baroque variation with jazz elaboration of a tune. The theme is passed around between registers and instrumental groups, becomes a walking bass line, and returns, varied, at the end. The finale is an energetic perpetuum mobile, an exhilarating race to the finish, with a sultry central episode that reintroduces the 'passacaglia' theme. The triple concerto is markedly different, though no less approachable and enjoyable. Initially less boisterous, the first movement begins with a beguilingly songlike theme, then develops through a series of dramatic episodes with much ostinato activity in which the saxophone takes the lead in stirring up trouble, aided and abetted by the cello as willing co-conspirator, before the harp insists on a return to simple lyricism in an extended triple cadenza, interrupted by a furiously energetic orchestral outburst before the movement ends in mellow mood. The long second movement begins in soulfully lyrical mood, and much of the movement is on an intimate scale, with the saxophone in particular weaving long soliloquies over ostinato accompaniments. The orchestra keeps trying to interject a sense of high drama, without much success, and the piece ends by winding down with a repeated figure and a simple final cadence. Michala Petri (recorder), Benjamin Koppel (saxes), Tine Rehling (harp), Eugene Hye-Knudsen (cello), Odense Symphony Orchestra; Henrik Vagn Christensen.