We have moved north west, to the beautiful concert hall of the Royal Danish Academy of Music...but everyone here calls it 'radiohuset' ('the radio house'), as this is the building that housed the Danish Broadcasting Corporation for six decades.
We start with the three wind quintet finalists this morning, and this evening we will hear from the three string quartet finalists.
A reminder of who has made it through to the final. In the wind category: V Coloris (Copenhagen), Ensemble Ouranos (Paris) and the Pacific Quintet (Berlin).
In the string category: the Elmire Quartet (Paris), the Balourdet String Quartet (Houston) and the Simply Quartet (Vienna).
We are very nearly read to get going here in Copenhagen. I'm Andrew Mellor, and I'll be live-blogging and commentating over the live pictures in English, while Rie Koch introduces the performances to the audience here at the concert hall in Danish. Any minute now we'll be ready to go...
And we're off! Beginning with the 'home team' - V Coloris from here in Copenhagen. They have opted to open with a Danish piece, Jørgen Jersild's "At spille i skoven" ("to play in the woods") - another Danish wind quintet classic.
The piece was written in 1947 for an ensemble drawn from the Royal Danish Orchestra (as was Nielsen's Wind Quintet). Jersild studied with Albert Roussel in Paris, who instilled in him the idea of clean, clear, balanced textures...a key objective of his Wind Quintet.
...but overall, Jersild wanted to write a piece that would be a pleasure to play and hear. Music, for him, was an expression of life's pleasures.
A piece absolutely bursting with joie de vivre! That performance of Jørgen Jersild's "At spille i skoven" will certainly have made the piece some new friends.
It's worth remembering, that the competition begins long before the contestants make it onto the stage - choosing the right repertoire is a strategy in itself. Finalists have three pieces of music with which to explore all possible sides of their (and various composers') musical personalities. V Coloris have chosen an overtly witty piece (Jersild) and a studious one (Scarlatti, playing now), which are nicely complemented and rounded-off by the compulsory Nielsen Wind Quintet which is a combination of the two.
The Romanian pianist and composer Dinu Lipatti made this arrangement of Scarlatti's Six Piano Sonatas in 1938-39 - just before war broke out and changed everything for most musicians in Europe. Lipatti found refuge in Switzerland, becoming professor at the Geneva Conservatory.
First we had multicoloured shirts from V Coloris, then we had flowery shirts...now we have multicoloured bow-ties (or as the Danes call them, 'butterflies').
After hearing the Theme & Variations movement from Nielsen's Wind Quintet seven times on Tuesday, now we hear the whole thing - and realise how perfectly balanced the piece is when heard fully intact.
A fantastic start to final day courtesy of V Coloris. We're back in a few minutes with the next finalists in the wind quintet competition, Ensemble Ouranos from Paris.
We're back - and Ensemble Ouranos have brought with them a real rarity (and speciality): an arrangement of Dvořák's 'American' String Quartet, which they themselves commissioned from the composer David Walter.
So far, it's proving to be a Saturday full of feel-good music! While Dvořák was in America, running the conservatory in New York, he used to spend his summer holidays in Spillville, Iowa, in a community of Czech nationals. He felt so happy there. The 'American' string quartet spilled out of him, full of American-Bohemian sunshine!
Ensemble Ouranos will play only the first movement of the Dvořák today (it's a long piece!), but if it leaves you hungry for more, they have recently recorded Walter's wind arrangement of the whole quartet.
Perhaps what this piece does better than any other, is put into music that feeling of the sun breaking out from behind clouds and flooding the landscape with warmth and light. It is just what we need on this wet, grey Copenhagen day!
...and now for something completely different!
Yes, this is Jean Françaix's Wind Quintet No 1 from 1948. It is a work full of irony...just wait for the crazy march (the final movement) that will follow this one.
We could call Jean Françaix 'the French Jørgen Jersild' :-)
Wait for it...you'll know the piece is going to end when the french horn plays an outlandish 'fluttertongue' note (one that wobbles)
Once again, it's fascinating to see what a difference it makes when an ensemble chooses to stand or sit. Somehow, 'sitting down' chamber music feels more like a conversation among friends; 'standing up' feels a little more like a message for the wider world. So many works - including the Nielsen Quintet - have elements of both in their expression.
We have been talking all week about how Nielsen didn't just write his Wind Quintet FOR his friends from the Royal Danish Orchestra, he also wrote it ABOUT them.
...how so? Well, as we're listening to a French ensemble, let's start with the flautist. Nielsen's flautist was Holger Gilbert-Jespersen, a man of great humour and a taste for all things French, including music. He was also, according to one who knew him, ‘full of shadow and ambiguity’.
...and the Wind Quintet's original clarinettist? That was a near-legendary figure called Aage Oxenvad, a person ‘of somewhat choleric temperament, irascible but warm at heart, full of personal, subjective problems’ (according to Nielsen's biographer Robert Simpson).
The Wind Quintet inspired Nielsen to write solo concertos for each of the five wind instruments. He only finished the flute and clarinet concertos. When the Copenhagen Wind Quintet's bassoonist heard the concertos Nielsen had written for flute and clarinet, he told Nielsen not to hurry with his bassoon concerto (he was terrified it would be too difficult for him to play!).
We have heard from a Copenhagen ensemble, a Parisian ensemble...and now a Berlin-based ensemble, the Pacific Quintet.
The Pacific Quintet charmed us with their charisma in the first two rounds. This piece by Jean Françaix offers them the perfect opportunity to so the same again.
Isn't it wonderful how Françaix's horn buzzes away in the background like an irritated bumblebee? The Pacific horn player Hae-Ree Yoo was superb there.
Easy to sense that this ensemble has been waiting all week to unleash the full extent of its virtuosity - and that it's ready to go all-in now!
A reminder of what is at stake here: a total prize fund, across both disciplines, of €65,000.
...that's €15,000 for the first prize winners in each category, €10,000 for the second and €5,000 for the third. A further €2,500 for 'the best interpretation of the commissioned work.'
The winner in each category will also be invited to perform in the concert series of chamber music societies around Denmark - in Copenhagen, Hørsholm, Viborg, Randers and in beautiful Odense (Nielsen's hometown).
And perhaps the biggest prize of all: experience and expert feedback.
...and on behalf of all Copenhageners, a plea to this week's visitors from overseas: PLEASE come back in a week when it is not raining every day!
Back to the music, and the Competition's first taste of Hans Eisler. His Divertimento was written shortly after his period studying with Schoenberg.
The second movement, as we just heard, is a Theme & Variations...just like the final movement of Nielsen's Quintet.
Here goes - the week's final airing of Nielsen's Wind Quintet. Anyone else a little sad to be hearing it for the last time?
Just a reminder: today's venue is the concert hall of the Royal Danish Academy of Music. But it wasn't always. The building was inaugurated in 1945 as the headquarters of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. Many historic performances and recordings from the Danish National Symphony Orchestra took place in this very hall.
...in 2006, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation moved to a new building in the south of the city and the Royal Danish Academy of Music moved in to the building that was known as 'radiohuset' ('the radio house') meaning this beautiful concert hall is still alive with music almost every day.
...it is of real interest to architecture and design nerds. The architect Vilhelm Lauritzen developed many of his most iconic designs for the building, including the light fittings that now carry the name 'radiohuset' and are still manufactured.
...when DR moved out, it also made space for the Copenhagen Phil - the municipal orchestra of the Danish capital - which has its offices here and plays here most Friday nights (including last night).
...it means the Royal Danish Academy of Music is one of the few conservatories in the world which includes a fully professional orchestra within its premises. It gives vital experience to the Academy's musicians, who frequently collaborate with the orchestra.
But back to Nielsen, and the Pacific Quintet. This section of Nielsen's score reveals his love of plain-speaking lyricism - the song of the farmer or the milkmaid. There aren't many composers in history who could combine simple songs with rigorous counterpoint like Nielsen could.
There are so many sudden changes of mood in this last movement of Nielsen's Wind Quintet. It's remarkable and breathtaking how the Pacific Quintet are able to the 'mood lighting' so quickly and so clearly. Superb chamber music playing and a privilege to witness.
...to change/shift the lighting; to suddenly create a new mood in a matter of seconds. That takes real skill.
What a beautiful shot! Shout-out to the cameraman there - as virtuosic as the Pacific's horn player.
...it puts a lump in the throat, when Nielsen's tender chorale returns, but with that new rhythm. What a genius he was!
That's it! We have heard our last Wind Quintet. Stay tuned for the results, coming shortly.
We should have Wind Quintet results for you within the next 15 minutes. Stay tuned!