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ERLAND COOPER and HENRIK LINDSTRAND live in the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, Hamburg (November 5th 2023)

When I stepped outside the Elphi, as the locals call the famous Philharmonic Hall of Hamburg by the river Elbe, it was pouring with rain. That was quite inconvenient, since I had left my outer piece of clothing in the car, which was now parked twelve-hundred meters away. But as I hurried through the wet city towards my (luckily free) parking spot, I realized it wasn't actually that bad:
Good that it's only a warm summer rain! Yes, I actually thought that - before remembering we're already with one foot under the Christmas tree!

I would like to believe that - apart from the concept of seasons being more and more nullified by climate change - it was the music I had just experienced which had transported me to other places, from which I just hadn't completely come back yet, when this thought ran through my mind.

Admittedly neither Henrik "The next song is about a place in Copenhagen" Lindstrand's nor Erland "the best way to go to Scotland is by boat" Cooper's favorite sources of inspiration are explicitly known for being less rainy than Hamburg. They do have spring and summer though.

The first show of the evening belonged to Swedish composer/pianist Henrik Lindstrand, who had caught my interest a couple of months ago, when One Little Independent Records released his latest album "Klangland". He played a Steinway & Sons concert grand and some smaller toys (synths, bells, melodica, effects and the occasional sampled beat) on top of it. And even more importantly he was accompanied by a four-piece string ensemble.

Together they wandered through landscapes of sweet melancholic intimacy and elevating grandeur, but while doing so also created a ton of sounds you wouldn't usually expect in this setting, because not Lindstrand himself mixed his Classical tradition up with contemporary experimentalism, but also the violins and cello were plugged, scratched and bowed in many unconventional ways, all in service of creating unique atmospheres.

The performance included songs of all his four albums, but no matter if the material was already familiar to me or not - it was all around breathtaking. And what a sound!

We were not in the Main Hall (like last year when I had been here the first time to see the Sun Ra Arkestra), but only in the Small Hall, which is quite an understatement, because for both artists it appearantly was the biggest, most unbelievable thing ever.
It's much simpler and straight-forward than the architechtonically spectacular heart of the building, but still objectively pretty huge and above all also designed with the acoustics as top priority. And even though my central spot in the first row might have helped too, I must say that the sound was close to utter perfection. Absolute chef's kiss!

As you may already have guessed I had bought my ticket mainly for Henrik Lindstrand. Back then there was only a very quick check of what Erland Cooper was doing before I decided that it would surely be worthwhile, but didn't dig into his work deeper, just to keep it a nice bonus surprise in a way for me.

Coming back into the hall the audience was greeted by a tape recorder sitting on top of the grand piano playing birds' twittering - or is it xing now?

But other than this important prop, which he would later even run around in the room with, a pretty huge part of the set-up and direction had a lot in common with the artist before. It also was a piano/strings ensemble combination with experimental extra spice. The trio of violin, viola and violincello was focused a little bit more on tradional harmony and virtuosity here, which could sound astonishingly big and orchestral at times, but brought in Ambient and soundtrack-ish elements - including singing through the instrument mics - as well.

Cooper opened several songs with spoken word samples and even had his most pop-affine moment, when he sang smooth lead vocals to a backing track, which was later accompanied by the live instruments.
When he didn't play piano, he moved around, conducting the strings or just enjoying the sound of the group, which was actually playing together for the very first time.

All in all it was another outstanding performance. My two only small points of criticism would be 1. that the birds and weather sounds were a little too much, a little too kitschy - you should put more trust into the music that it will set the scene by itself - and 2. the show just was over too soon. 

What a great late musical highlight of the year this night was! And please liebe Elbphilharmonie: next time don't scare me by having the QR-code of my ticket not being excepted at the automatic entry. (Got my entry approved stamp in the office without problems, but man, that had made me needlessly nervous nonetheless.) Thanks!

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