Power of two

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In early May, violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta premiered Akin, a new double concerto written for them by Michel van der Aa. Pwyll ap Siôn attended this performance, in Cologne, Germany, and spoke to composer and soloists about bringing the work to the stage

It’s the morning after the night before, and a hushed conversation is taking place in the far corner of a breakfast lounge in a hotel around the corner from Cologne’s famous cathedral. I’m in the company of Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta and Moldovan-born violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Other than the occasional tinkling of spoons against teacups, the room is quiet. Very quiet. We exchange sentences in fake whispers. I feel as if I’m privy to some kind of strange conspiratorial plot to take over the classical music world…

It’s all a far cry from the ending of Dutch composer Michel van der Aa’s double concerto Akin (2018–19), which received its premiere the night before (9 May) at Cologne’s Philharmonie. Sitting at the table with Gabetta and Kopatchinskaja – the two soloists for whom it was written – I can’t get the image of that ending out of my mind.

Like a slowly simmering pressure cooker, Van der Aa’s concerto gradually builds in energy, speed and intensity until there’s nowhere for it to go. Inexorably swept along by ever growing waves of sound, the music teeters on the edge of chaos. So immersed and involved have they become in the musical characters they represent that the two soloists seem caught up in a frantic world all of their own. As the music reaches its final crescendo, Kopatchinskaja pirouettes towards Gabetta in a single motion, and they stare at each other, face to face, for the first time. There’s real friction in the air…

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