Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Anders: Marimba Concertos - welcome repertoire addditions

The marimba is often an instrument of cliché, primarily because of its close association with Latino pop music (think: Baja Marimba Band). Danish composer Anders Koppel approaches the instrument from a slightly different direction. Some if it may be due to his nationality, some because of his background as a successful rock instrumentalist and jazz performer.

Whatever the reason, Koppel's four marimba concertos sound fresh, exciting, and accessible. And that makes them welcome additions to the repertoire. Although each work has its own characteristics, there are some stylistic similarities that bind them together. In all of them the soloist and ensemble are equal partners, sharing center stage throughout the work.

Koppel's concertos all have a strong rhythmic element. Sometimes it's rock-inspired, sometimes jazzy, but always strongly centered in the classical realm. The soloist (Marianna Bednarska) is always challenged. The music skips across the marimba's keyboard, making great demands on the speed, accuracy and musicality of the performer. Bednarska delivers on all counts.

For me, it's a treat to hear these through an SACD player. A marimba with rosewood keys has a very rich sound, and (in the lower register) notes have a long decay. Some of the expressive nature of music is in those very subtle musical details -- details that I could only hear from the SACD version.

Anders Koppel: Marimba Concertos
Mairanna Bednarska, marimba; Aalborg symphony Orchestra; Henrik Vagn Christensen, conductor
Dacapo SACD 6.220595

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