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double concerto for twinned strings
akin, the new double concerto by Michel van der Aa for violinst Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta, received first performances in Cologne and Amsterdam in May 2020.



The 25-minute work was commissioned by ACHT BRÜCKEN/Musik für Koln and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with funds from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, and Fonds Podiumkunsten.

Michel van der Aa has worked with both soloists on earlier projects – Patricia Kopatchinskaja on the violin work ‘Double’ and Sol Gabetta on his Grawemeyer Award-winning cello concerto with film ‘Up-close’. As the composer notes: “Akin was inspired by the friendship between these two very special string players, reflected in the score through their sharing of the same musical material and communication with a similar voice. When I was deciding on a title I was drawn to an image of identical twins, inseparable and thinking in a related manner to all outward appearances but perhaps with different personalities beneath.

“There is also an affinity between the solo and tutti material, as if the orchestra is an alter-ego of the soloists, operating in the same perspective. The relationship is not contrapuntal or a conflict of opposites as in some concertos but much more an active and engaged discussion between good friends. The percussion section has a prominent role, often soloistic. There are highly rhythmic sections with drum kit and the percussion triggers the release of energy, with pulse patterns creating timepieces – it as if the internal wheels in a clockwork mechanism are turning at different speeds. This provides the blueprint for the music of the string soloists.

“Like my clarinet concerto ‘Hysteresis’, the new work is in two parts. The first movement develops from an intimate opening, bottling up energy like an incubator, while the second movement is much more energetic and vituosic as if the valve on a pressure cooker has been released. I’ve decided, as with my Violin Concerto to write a purely acoustic piece without electronics, allowing the soloists to speak. Apart from a few fully scored sections and some dramatic outbursts the orchestration is very transparent to give enough space for the string lines to materialise.”
— David Allenby / Quarternotes

Reviews

High-quality, vintage Van der Aa at the Concertgebouw

“Michel van der Aa wrote the double concerto ‘akin’ to conclude his term as the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s resident composer. Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta gave its opening performance on Friday.

Van der Aa gained international renown with his multimedia operas ‘After Life’, ‘Sunken Garden’ and ‘Blank Out’. In ‘akin’ he dispenses with cables and jack plugs. There are no soundtracks, film projections and other high-tech this time, but ‘merely’ a score following the classical rules of art.

Even so, the notes unmistakably conveyed Van der Aa’s affinity with electronics. In layered percussion movements and metallic string chords that seemed to come from a box. As well as in obsessive loops and razor-sharp montages flawlessly executed by the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Peter Eötvös.

Although ‘akin’ is a purely instrumental composition, it also contains theatre. From the opening bars, where natural-born performers Kopatchinskaja and Gabetta slowly meandered their lines up past a low harp and prowling pizzicato basses, it was clear that the composer was using his soloists as protagonists in a musical dramaturgy.

Van der Aa’s musical universe is one of reflections and splits, in which instruments develop into each other’s alter egos through clever interchanges of motifs and gestures. In ‘akin’ Van der Aa drives this duplication process with a compelling tension that leads to a blistering battle of strings to the rhythm of pounding toms and sharply striking percussion.

Gabetta and a barefoot Kopatchinskaja’s forceful, charged performance and expressive stage presence kept the audience on the edge of their seats for half an hour.

In short, high-quality, vintage Van der Aa at the Concertgebouw.”

(****)
NRC, Joep Christenhusz, 12 mei 2019

Mysteriously beautiful and wonderfully exhilarating

“For ‘akin’, a concerto for violin and cello, Van der Aa chose world-class performers: violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta. As with Van der Aa’s ‘Violin Concerto’, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra co-commissioned ‘akin’. The orchestra performed the world premiere on Thursday at the Kölner Philharmonie, which also co-commissioned the work, followed by the Dutch premiere on Friday at an enthusiastic Concertgebouw.

Whereas Van der Aa has forged ahead in his hi-tech theatrical compositions, which brim with digital electronics, he has actually stayed very classical in his pieces that do not require plugs, sockets and cords. He writes recognisable notes – recognisable because they are his, and thus betray his penmanship.

Just as he goaded and challenged Janine Jansen with his rebounding notes, he demanded much of Kopatchinskaja and Gabetta in ‘akin’. They did not flinch on Friday and thre themselves into it skilfully and viciously, facing each other in the abrupt closing note, as if to say: ‘Was that it then?’

In the concert, which began beguilingly with a striking bond between a harp and double basses, Kopatchinskaja and Gabetta were often primus inter pares rather than real soloists. They were more leaders of the violins and cellos respectively, both merging into the overall sound. In the raging passages the violinist and cellist excelled with total dedication to and belief in Van der Aa’s notes.

The furious turmoil Van der Aa succeeded in creating in this concerto recalled the hectic scenes in his opera ‘Sunken Garden’. And when things momentarily settled down, Van der Aa’s magnificent and oh-so-unmistakable sound fields shimmered.”

(****)
— Trouw, Peter van der Lint, 13 May 2019

Riesenjubel

“Riesenjubel entfachte anschließend die Uraufführung von Michel van der Aas zweisätzigem Doppelkonzert „akin“ für Violine und Cello. Wer an Brahms denkt, liegt nicht ganz falsch, denn auch hier geht es nicht um einen Wettstreit zweier Solisten um die „Lufthoheit“ über dem Orchester, sondern um das Porträt zweier Instrumente im Einklang, um ein konzertantes Ineinandergreifen, ein klangliches Sich-Ergänzen und ein gegenseitiges rhythmisches Sich-Aufschaukeln.

Van der Aa hatte dabei explizit Patricia Kopatchinskaja und Sol Gabetta mit ihrer einvernehmlichen, extrovertierten Musizierenergie im Sinn und bedient diese aufs Trefflichste. Aus einer klar konturierten Harfeneröffnung entwickeln die Solistinnen gemeinsame, aus fasslichen, tonal grundierten Motiven bestehende Gesten, deren Ausdruck schnell von den beiden Streichinstrumenten auf das ganze, nur mittelgroß besetzte Orchester übergreift und dort effektsicher in die Breite projiziert wird.

Oft wird Kopatchinskaja dabei zur Primaria der hohen Streicher, Gabetta führt das tiefere Register an. Eine erste Beschleunigungs- und Steigerungswelle beruhigt sich am Ende des ersten Satzes wieder, im zweiten wird die rhythmische Zuspitzung, die im Verbund mit den beiden Orchesterschlagwerkern fast groovende Züge annimmt, dann aber konstitutiv. Der mitreißende, freilich auch etwas eindimensionale Sog trägt den Satz dann bis zur abrupten Finalpointe, zu der die beiden Solistinnen im Blick aufeinander einfrieren. Das Stück hat das Zeug dazu, sich mit entsprechend explosiven SolistInnen im Repertoire festzusetzen.”
NMZ, Juan Martin Koch, 10-05-2019

A work of real stature

“Extra special this year was the North American premiere of Michel van der Aa’s new double concerto with VSO concertmaster Nicholas Wright on violin and cellist Pieter Wispelwey. Definitely not contemporary easy listening, but a work of real stature by a composer at the top of his game.”
— Vancouver Sun, David Gordon Duke, 24-12-2019

Instrumentation

for solo violin, solo cello, and orchestra
2018-2019

Solo Violin
Solo Cello

1 x Flute
1 x Clarinet (in Bb)
1 x Bass clarinet
1 x Bassoon

4 x French Horns
1 x Trumpet (in C)
1 x Tenor trombone
1 x Bass trombone
1 x Tuba

2 x percussion
1 x harp

Strings (10/10/10/8/6)
Double basses should have a low C string, or string extension to low C

Details

Duration

25′

First performance

10 May 2019
Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany

Commissioned by

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Kölner Philharmonie with financial support of Fonds Podiumkunsten and the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung

Publisher

Boosey & Hawkes

Performances

Upcoming performance


17 February 2022

Akin

Premiere of ensemble version
Insomnio, conducted by Ulrich Pöhl
Mieko Kanno violin, Charles Watt, cello

Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Last performance


21 March 2020

akin

NAC Orchestra, cond. Jessica Cottis
Simone Lamsma, violin. Harriet Krijgh, cello.

7pm, Southam Hall, Ottowa, Canada

All performances of akin

News

28 May 2019

World premiere of double concerto ‘akin’

In May Michel van der Aa’s dramatic and explosive concerto for violin and cello akin received both its world premiere (at the Philharmonie in Cologne) and its Dutch premiere (at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw). ‘akin’ was written specially for violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and celli...

Read more

28 April 2019

World premiere ‘akin’: double concerto for twinned strings

Akin, the new double concerto by Michel van der Aa for violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta, receives first performances in Cologne and Amsterdam in May.

 Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta are soloists in Michel van der Aa’s new double concer...

Read more