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Herman D. KOPPEL (1908-1998)
Symphony No. 3 Op. 39 (1944-45) [29.12]
Symphony No. 4 Op. 42 (1946) [34.49]
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/Moshe Atzmon
rec. 13-15 June, 6 Oct 2001 (3); 22-26 Aug 2000 (4) Symphony Hall, Aalborg, Danmarks Radio
Orchestral Works vol. 3
DACAPO 8.226016 [64.21]

Koppel wrote seven symphonies between 1930 and 1961. After writing his first two symphonies his next two followed in short order.

This Third Symphony is unsettled and exuding anxiety. The music, said Koppel, reflects the fears he had for his native Denmark during Swedish exile. Koppel, with his Jewish origins, had fled his homeland from Nazi occupation. The Symphony is in a single half hour movement. The music is preoccupied with melody often of a consolatory hymnal character (9.03) against an emotion-bleached 'landscape'. There is room for some searingly cold peck-and-chatter for woodwind which works powerfully when counter-pointed with tense but pliant writing for the strings as at 11.40. This symphony can be bracketed with the scalding heat of the contemporary American symphonies such as the Thirds of Diamond, Harris and Schuman. There is little sign of confidence in this music, consolation perhaps (27.01 et seq) but the outcome remains something feared rather than hoped for. The tense quiet music in which this symphony abounds finds echoes and pre-echoes in the adagios of the Shostakovich symphonies (10-12), in Nystroem's Sinfonia del mare and in Allan Pettersson's Symphonies 7-9. This is a powerful piece moving between the poles of depression and an uncertain consolation.

The Fourth Symphony was written on his return to Denmark after the end of the war. It opens with a masterly col legno rhythmic whisper and a languidly progressive clarinet arabesque. The music then refers briefly back to Nielsen in the pastoral idylls of the middle movement of his Fourth Symphony. The whispered clatter continues and proves itself an idée fixe for the whole movement giving it a satisfying sense of organic unity. The short intermezzo is playfully purposeful in the mood of a Sinfonietta with a twist of Kurt Weill in there as well. The rhythmic patterns link with the first movement. The finale is a substantial piece of music (13 minutes). Bitter and biting brass writing at the peak of the movement contrasts with substantial quiet sections. The uncertainty, the sense of looking fearfully over the shoulder, is still there. The skilfully exuberant pages that constitute the finale seem a shying away into orthodoxy when so much of the symphony has treated of pessimism and fear head-on.

This disc again has good notes by Jens Cornelius and is a companion to Vol. 1 8.224135 and Vol. 2 8.224205 both reviewed here.

The usual exemplary high production, technical and artistic values are in evidence in this presentation of two symphonies exploring Nordic portents and angst.

Rob Barnett


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