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Anders Koppel

String Quartets | Mezzo Saxophone Quintet

Dacapo Records, 2011

Diagram of an orchestra

The artwork for this CD was actually made for an entirely different release.
Anders Koppel and I met at a little café to talk about the two simultaneous CDs he had upcoming. One of them was called Concertos with works for Symphony Orchestra, and the other was a release of String Quartets with a work for Mezzo Saxophone Quintet (the ‘mezzo saxophone’ being a custom-built, hybrid instrument).

We talked about Concertos first. Anders described the music as ‘audience-oriented’. He talked about the concert experience, the intense magic spell of having an entire symphony orchestra – one hundred people – on stage at the same time, all focusing and doing their best in the moment.

The other CD was a collection of works for small ensembles that he described as ‘intimate, private messages from the composer’. For example, String Quartet No. 2 was inspired by seventeenth-century astronomer Johannes Kepler. Anders worked with Kepler’s ‘musical intervals’ – derived from observations of the planets – for the piece. Anders was also fascinated by the cosmos: ‘the host of stars that appear above your head on an August night when you go outside and look up into vast space – and by the thoughts 
about time, eternity and the now that this sight can spark off’.

For Mezzo Saxophone Quintet, he was inspired by a desolate, dreamlike painting from the 1880’s, Isle of the Dead by Arnold Böcklin. For Anders, the image described man meeting the universe. He loved the sense that you could walk around the rocks of the island and just disappear into nothing.

I started working on Concertos first. Thinking of Anders’ description of the symphony orchestra concert as a magical experience, I got the idea to represent the orchestra as a sculpture, where the musicians were beams of light. I commissioned visualiser Rune Brandt Hermannsson to create the picture as a 3D model and render it from different angles. Anders liked the results for Concertos and approved the design.

I had started working on the visuals for Anders Koppel’s next CD when I got an email from him: ‘Me again! The more I look at your cover, the more I like it… but maybe you (without realising it!) have made the perfect cover – not for the Concertos, but for the Quartet CD.’

I was initially taken aback – what about the orchestra? – but Anders had seen something else in the image that Rune and I had made: an echo of the night sky and the cosmos, with references to the Northern Lights. This, for him, was a perfect visualisation of the quartet music.

Looking back, it seems obvious that when you are working with two projects simultaneously, the ideas can start to become interchangeable – and sometimes it’s more about the feeling than the idea.

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