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Peter Grahame Woolf
Musical Pointers, August 2008

Lars Hannibal is highly regarded for his mastery of musical literature from the lute music of the 16th century to the contemporary scores composed especially for him. Violinist Kim Sjøgren became concert master of the Royal Danish Orchestra at 22; he is also active as a composer. As Duo Concertante they celebrated their 10-year anniversary concert at Wigmore Hall in London, having performed together in a wide variety of genres and performing situations.

This disc demonstrates firstly that violin/guitar makes an attractive combination. The duo’s chosen late-20 C music dates from 1987/88 and mostly it is far from forward looking “cutting edge” (Berio composed his Sequenza XI for guitar in exactly the same years!).

Koppel & Jersild offer pieces that would go down well in recital, but don’t stretch the guitarist unduly. The prolific Holmboe knows the guitar well and this is a pleasing little duo that would always be welcome. The most interesting work is the first, Palle Mikkelborg’s sequence of linked little pieces, nearly half an hour long, with a spicing of electronics and recorded children’s voices added (Mikkelborg may be better known to some readers as jazz trumpeter and composer/producer of a famous Miles Davis album AURA).

“Everything Matters” is poetic music inspired by a little essay by a Danish dancer, Erik Bruhn, in which he recalls sitting up in a tree as a child, ignoring his family’s calls from below “because I knew that I was the only one who knew that I was not there!” This “zen-buddhist way of thinking” inspired music of a timeless atmosphere “with its own language, never heard before or since” (Lars Hannibal) which needs a somewhat passive (zen?) mode of listening to enter its world. It became a successful Christopher Bruce ballet which was filmed by Danish Radio/TV in 1991, and soft-focus stage photos from it adorn Charlotte Bruun Peterson’s delightful artwork. The whole presentation is alluring, and Lars Hannibal provides all the information you need.

Recommended for something different, and Journey should certainly find a place in all college guitar department libraries.

Kenneth Keaton
American Record Guide, May 2008

Each of these pieces is really good music—expressive, interesting, inventive, beautiful!

This issue brought two recordings by Sjogran and Hannibal, one of the works of Giuliani and this one of four contemporary Danish composers. The Giuliani was quite fine, but this is a revelation. Of these composers, only Holmboe was known to me, but Palle Mikkelborg’s Everything Matters is a multimedia work for guitar, violin, tape, and dancer. The music has the haunting spirituality of Tavener’s work-I’d love to see the choreography. It is set in nine movements, alternating between an ethereal atonality and mundane waltzes. The mood is mostly quiet and contemplative. It is very moving.

Herman Koppel’s Duo is a three-movement sonata-like structure with echoes of Bartok and Walton. Jorgen Jersild’s 10 Impromptus is a delightful set of brief vignettes, most shorter than a minute. This is magical music—fairies dancing, elves singing. It has been a while since I heard new music with such affecting simplicity, such comforting purity.

Vagn Holmboe is, after Nielsen, Denmark’s best known composer. The Duo Concertante has some folk influences and also recalls Bartok but is gentler.

The players have collaborated for three decades. Each is a fine player with an excellent technique and tasteful elegance. They clearly love these works. You will, too.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, May 2008

A super disk and well worth investigating.

Twenty-five separate movements for violin and guitar might seem a bit of a challenge but it’s nothing of the sort when the music is as enjoyable and varied as it is in these four works.

Sjøgren and Hanibal met when students at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Århus and from 1980 to 1994 performed as Duo Concertante, giving over 1,000 concerts and making recordings and radio and TV appearances. All the works on this disk were commissioned by them so they have the authority of composer-supervised performances.

Palle Mikkelborg is a major figure in jazz, having played with the Gil Evans Big Band, George Russel Big Band as well as with Jan Gabarek and Gary Peacock. His output is varied, to say the least, ranging from works for orchestra and choir to Aura, which was recorded by Miles Davis in 1984. Everything Matters is a nine movements set of pieces which range from the serious to the humorous. There’s the smallest, and quite discreet, use of electronics and pre-recorded sounds—this latter of children playing—which add to the atmosphere of the music. It sounds as if the duo is actually performing directly to the children. At nearly half an hour this work doesn’t seem a moment too long and it’s very inventive, with its varied moods and sonorities.

Herman D Koppel was a pupil of Carl Nielsen who wrote in all genres, and as a performer was a passionate advocate for Nielsen’s piano music; he made two valuable recordings of the complete works. His Duo is a serious work in three short movements. The language is terse and aphoristic, so fleeting are some of the ideas, and this is, probably, the most thought-provoking of all the works on this disk.

Jersild studied with, amongst others, Albert Roussel and the French influence can be seen in some of his works. His output wasn’t large but we should be grateful for what there is. These 10 Impromptu are true miniatures—half of them play for less than 60 seconds—and they are serious and fun, by turns, and most enjoyable.

It’s always good to welcome any music by Vagn Holmboe, not just because he was a fine composer, but because he was a friend of mine. It has been said that Holmboe never wrote any light music, and this is true— there’s no Tam O’Shanter Overture, for instance—but some of his works are lighter than others. This Duo Concertato is a case in point. Although the outward appearance is of a serious composition in three movements, the outer, fast, ones are filled with fun and they surround a heart of gold. Truly a portrait of the man himself. I loved him and miss him.

Although it is not so stated, this must be a re-issue of a Danish EMI LP (7496791) which was issued in about 1989. The sound on that LP was excellent and the re-mastering for this CD is superb. There is a feeling of space in the acoustic and the two players are well balanced. The notes don’t tell us anything about the works heard, but do give a potted biography of each composer and performer, complete with photograph, and there’s lots of photographs of dancers in soft focus.

A super disk and well worth investigating.

The Musician Danish Music Magazine, March 2008

This collection of world premiere recordings, as Lars Hannibal proudly announces in the liner notes, is very exciting when looking at the context.  All the pieces are especially written for him and Kim Sjøgren, which makes the collection just as homogeneous, as “Taking off souls” is tangled!

There is an advantage to both parts—in this case the program allows you to observe how four long-established composers in the Danish tradition expressed themselves about twenty years ago ( the youngest is Palle Mikkelborg, 47 years old at that time). Two of them—Koppel and Holmboe—are amongst the leading composers in the 20th century Danish music history, which makes one listen with great interest.

To begin with the end: in the long run I think that the combination of violin and guitar sounds a little too similar, but one cannot resist zooming in on the virtuoso treatment of the instruments, exactly as expected. It is highly enjoyable musically, but for the three elder composers the awareness remains with
the sound and the expected ways of expression.

The overall attention for me gathers around “Everything Matters” by Palle Mikkelborg, identically with the music for the ballet “Journey”.

In addition to Lars Hannibal and Kim Sjøgren, Palle Mikkelborg himself plays the keyboards—a  pre-recorded tape. The music is inspired from an essay by ballet dancer Erik Bruhn, and was later the point of origin for the ballet by choreographer Christopher Bruce. The composition takes almost half an hour, and in that sense dominates the CD. One can say that the CD comes in two parts, in which the first part, as I hear it, is the most interesting.

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