implacable aggression; feverish piano passages abound as do returns to the
skittish opening and dramatic brass surges, all of which lend the music a
Prokofiev-like conviction. If the work as a whole fails quite to sustain
the energy and wit of its opening movement it certainly lacks nothing in
orchestral incident - an andante with sombre lower string writing, prominent
woodwind, beautifully weighted piano runs, increasingly brittle and frantic
orchestral interjections and a rather brusque finale with prominent brass
fanfares and decorative piano runs.
The Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra has been called a pastoral
work; with its rockingly insistent theme and its reluctance to indulge
neo-baroque excursions, it journeys into perhaps even more sultry landscape
than that. It is in this context that the rather precipitate first movement
cadenza should be seen - even though, arriving at 6'37" and lasting all of
two and a quarter minutes, it might not seem fully to have earned its keep,
The work is played by Else Marie Bruun and Julius Koppel; the latter Herman's
brother and the former his wife's sister; names familiar to collectors of
78s and LPs.
They perform with radiant understanding of the work's interior dialogue.
For all the virtuoso chase-and-follow of the second movement's cadenza and
the exposed lines leading to the curt orchestral summing up, this is a work
of pleasurable simplicity.
We are especially fortunate that the November 1949 performance of the
Clarinet Concerto has been preserved. One would never know that Louis
Cahuzac found it daunting to play, so superbly does he articulate his line.
It is a somewhat discursive, contemplative and thoughtful work. The clarinet
occasionally sings its melody accompanied by lower strings, where Koppel
reveals his sensitive orchestration. Two things should be added; firstly
that the lacquer discs have suffered some wear and that there is very slight
high frequency distortion, though this is of very little importance and listening
pleasure will barely be impeded; and secondly that any preserved performance
by the inspiring Cahuzac should be cherished.
The second disc amplifies the impression made by Koppel's performance of
his own Concerto; he is a formidably equipped player. Further examples of
his playing currently available are his accompaniments to ten Nielsen songs
with Aksel Schiotz (Danacord DACOCD 354-356). In the Jolivet he contends
with the barbarous percussion section and emerges unscathed; in the Stravinsky
his aristocratic weight of tone lends, not inappropriately, a certain aloof
sensitivity to the largo; his collaboration with Malko in the Bartók
is wholly successful in conveying rhythmic frisson. It's for Koppel's own
works that one would want this set but these concerto performances are a
worthy pendant and one that reasonably reflects the range of Koppel's musical
influences and interests.
These performances, preserved in the main by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation,
are in generally fine sound; even the Clarinet Concerto is acceptable. With
conductors such as Tuxen, Woldike, Jensen and Malko and the Danish Radio
Symphony Orchestra in excellent form throughout, these recordings reflect
the dual legacy of a most intriguing musician.