Master Exam Saxophone: Daan van Koppen

Daan van Koppen with Sander Beumer (left) and Erik-Jan de With (right) in Hans Kox - The Three Chairs

After studying the Saxophone contentiously for several years at the the Hague Royal Conservatoire the stage was set for Daan van Koppen's Master Exam, 2nd June 2015. The Kees van Baarenzaal at the Conservatoire was the place to be that night. So thought many of his family, friends, fellow-students and other music lovers. And what a Programme he drew up. A concert of Saxophone music of contemporary Dutch composers. No guts, no glory. This young fellow cannot be denied guts.

He kicked off his exam by playing The Three Chairs by composer Hans Kox. On Alto Saxophone he and collegues Sander Beumer (Tenor Saxophone) and Erik-Jan de With (Baritone Saxophone) performed the four pieces (Flessibile; Allegretto; Andante Sognando and Allegro Assai) of this 1989 composition as a tight unit. His collegues setting the stage for Daan to excel. In saxophonist circles known as a hard to play, but spectacular piece. Although definitely new music, traces of French early twentieth century saxophone music influences are clearly present.

Daan van Koppen performing ZandZeeBar by Jan-Peter de Graaff

What followed was the world premiere of Jan-Peter de Graaff's 2015 composition ZandZeeBar (Sand - Sea - Bar). A piece for Baritone Saxophone solo commissioned by Daan van Koppen himself. An impressive piece fitting for this Baritone instrument working its way toward an very rythmic finale. And performed con brio by Daan.

For the last piece before the intermission a large orchestra directed by Andrea Gasperin was engaged. To perform together with soloist Daan van Koppen the Concert for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra (1971) by Tristan Keuris. A fine match between harmonic and serial music and between soloist and orchestra. Also in this more lyric piece Daan stood his ground.

Daan van Koppen with orchestra

Together with pianist Frank van de Laar Daan performed Henk Badings La Malinconia. Italian for permanent sadness. And indeed a melancholic piece. With so much sadness Daan let it shine brightly. With much empathy performed by the examinee.

Then Daan starred in Maarten Altena's composition Stave (1988). One of Maarten's earlier pieces after leaving behind his free jazz period and having taken up composition lessons at the Conservatory. Daan tormented his Tenor Saxophone to let the music sound as Maarten intended it to. A complex piece to play mainly in the middle and lower registers.

Daan's Quartet in Andriessen's Hout

To round off the exam Jennifer Heins (Marimba), Martin van Hees (Guitar) and Tim Sabel (Piano) joined Daan to interprete Hout (Wood). A composition by Louis Andriessen. A quasi unisono composition which does justice to it's name. At the end of the exam and then such a demanding piece. No wonder Daan beside playing wonderfully had to control his blustering stomach.

But all told he performed brilliantly at his exam. The exam committee considered Daan's play behind closed doors. He was finally called in by his examiners. Daan and the exam committee surfaced together. The chairman of the committee adressed Daan and the audience: "Ladies and gentlemen, We had to consult for a short while. It was not difficult, I can already announce. We have really enjoyed this evening. Daan run a kind of marathon with Dutch composers. And, um, we are very much convinced. And we find it especially great that you can fascinate with Dutch composers from beginning to end. And we have, not only that but also the way he played with amazing energy, assessed the exam with a nine." Loud cheers and applause. Then it was his saxophone tutor David Kweksilber's turn:"Do you often go to concerts where you hear so many different music? Are you caught and fascinated by this young man from beginning to end? How special is that? That is insane. And ace good playing the saxophone; three different toots, different mouthpieces. Whole of the programme handpicked, but one piece. Let's hope we hear him very often. He put the orchestra together. But he gave everything and that we did witness. True or not? And hope to experience it often, right? And then we all come to listen!" And all these questions and remarks provoked loud agreement, yeah's and applause by the audience.