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Herman D. KOPPEL (1908-1998)
Symphony No. 1 Op. 5 (1929-30) [27.56]
Symphony No. 2 Op. 37 (1943) [40.43]
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/Moshe Atzmon
rec. 11-13 June, 6 Oct 2001, Symphony Hall. Aalborg, Danmarks Radio
Orchestral Works vol. 2
DACAPO 8.224205 [68.51]

Here are two three movement symphonies from the Danish composer Herman D. Koppel. Koppel wrote seven symphonies between 1930 and 1961. The first two shared a common fate for many years - rather like the first two symphonies by William Schuman and David Diamond. They were banned from performance by composer edict. The composer's prohibition was put in place from 1943, the year of the appearance of the Third Symphony written in exile in Sweden. All the same the composer did not renumber the symphonies.

The First Symphony he wrote during travels from Denmark to Germany and back. There are no illusions, smoke or mirrors. The music is strongly though not exclusively in debt to Nielsen (especially in the two outer movements) whose example he held in the strongest affection. The Nielsen symphonies most closely linked are the symphonies 2 and 5. Contemporary reaction after a 1931 premiere under the baton of Emil Telmányi was bitter 'every single theme was by Nielsen ... except one that was by Fini Henriques'. This is far too harsh a judgement to be permanent. This music has individuality too as in the long and languid yet unsentimental Adagio which would go well in any concert context. While the composer banned further performances it is interesting that he did not destroy the piece.

The Second Symphony is the first of his three wartime symphonies which was written in Denmark three years into the Nazi occupation. It was finished some six months before the Holocaust programme drove him from his homeland to neutral Sweden. The music of the first movement (Allegro tranquillo) is of long lyrically singing lines. The theme is of the highest quality with presentiments of Vaughan Williams' Sixth Symphony from six years later and of Tubin's Third and Fourth symphonies. It also has the steady-pulsed propulsion of the Moeran Symphony. The second movement andante is less florid - more ambivalent in mood at least until we get to the idyllic dialogue of horn and strings at 4.30 - half Copland, half Moeran. The finale is the longest movement (17.03) in this very substantial symphony. There is a smattering of Nielsen here but Koppel is now in more confident flower. The fugal writing at 6.25 passingly suggests the heady flight of strings in Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra. The work was conducted at its premiere by Thomas Jensen at the Tivoli. The composer withdrew the piece after being dissatisfied with the way it sounded at the premiere although from this perspective it is the finale that leaves one with doubts.

Two symphonies withdrawn by Koppel; one with strong obeisance to Nielsen; the other much more individual and striking - weaker only in the finale and then only intermittently.

This disc, with good notes by Jens Cornelius, is a companion to Vol. 1 Dacapo 8.224135.

Rob Barnett

See also review by John Phillips


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