Carion spiller Koppel
13 July 2013
I think the sleeve-notes are underestimating things a touch when they announce a ‘close family connection’ between the three composers represented in this disc, given that we’re talking of a father, a son and a grandson. That is the Koppel lineage, an adornment of the Danish musical stage for many decades. If that’s not an intimate and direct family connection I don’t know what is.
Herman D Koppel’s name has been in the ascendant in the fifteen years since his death and a number of recordings have been made that chart his music in both new and also archive recordings. Many have been reviewed on this site. His 1932 Sonatina for wind quintet may have taken its initial inspiration from Nielsen’s 1922 work for the same forces but in the decade since that influential work Koppel had assimilated other influences, so that it doesn’t sound overwhelmingly Nielsenesque. Koppel was a fine exponent of the art of rocking rhythm, as he exemplifies in the first movement and if its amiable and light-hearted mien is put into a certain perspective by a more intense and uncertain slow movement, the music still remains broadly genial. The finale is drolly dispatched with no sign, really, of Koppel’s great lodestars Bartók or Stravinsky.
Anders Koppel was born in 1947 and his 2002 piece shares its name with that of his father’s work. In three movements it has a certain Harlequinesque quality, infused with hints of jazzy cadences and deliciously changeable moods. The slow movement opens with a slightly dissonant March, surrounded by a lot of colour and detail, and ending with a cadential passage. The finale now unleashes a real dance in the form of a Tarantella, full of Mediterranean verve and light. This highly engaging work earns its premiere recording in this captivating performance.
In an act of filial one-upmanship, Benjamin Koppel has beaten his father in the wind quintet stakes. His Krazy Kat Music for wind quintet was written in 2000, two years before Anders’ work. It too is heard in its first ever recording. It opens and closes with sweetly solemn writing but in between there are plenty of collage-like incidents to keep the ear excited. The title of the quintet derives from the strip cartoon that ran for over thirty years in the decades between 1913 and 1944. Technically quite challenging, but fluently and playfully written, it has a dreamlike quality.
Other discs have conjoined fathers and sons, but I’m not sure how many have added grandsons in this way. If only there had been a great-grandson or two then the disc might have made for a more acceptable playing time. If you can overlook that, and you have a yen for the Koppel lineage, you should be assured that the recordings and the performances by the (nearly) sinister-sounding ensemble Carion are excellent.