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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Danacord

Herman D. KOPPEL (1908-1998) Composer and Pianist: Volume 4 - Vocal Music
Three Psalms for tenor solo, mixed choir, boys' choir and orchestra, Op. 48 (1949) [26.56]
Peter Lindroos, tenor
The Danish National Choir
Copenhagen Boys' Choir
The Danish National Symphony Orchestra/John Frandsen
Recorded by DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation) 16 March 1978
Five biblical songs for tenor and piano, Op. 46 (1949) [13.27]
Kurt Westi, tenor
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded by DR 25 February 1976
Four love songs on the Song of Songs for soprano and piano, Op. 47 (1949) [7.28]
(Dedicated to Karen and Gunnar Heerup)
Karen Heerup, soprano
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded by Columbia DDX 27 1950
Four Old Testament songs for mezzo-soprano and piano, Op. 49 (1949) [9.27]
(Dedicated to Jolanda Rodio)
Gurli Plesner, mezzo-soprano
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Private recording from radio broadcast 1969
Two Psalms for soprano and piano, Op. 55 (1951) [6.08]
Lone Koppel, soprano
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded by DR 6 February 1965
Two biblical songs for soprano and piano, Op. 59 (1955) [5,48]
Lone Koppel, soprano
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded by DR 6 February 1965
Psalm 42 for soprano and piano, Op. 68 (1960) [8.23]
(Dedicated to Lone Koppel)
Lone Koppel, soprano
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded by DR 17 July 1981
Three songs on Psalm 142, the Song of Songs and Psalm 100, Op. 96 (1975-76) [9.00] (Dedicated to my beloved wife)
Lone Koppel, soprano
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded by DR 17 July 1981
Two songs on poems by Johannes V. Jensen for tenor and piano, Op. 51 (1950) [7.30] (Dedicated to Gerd Schiøtz)
Kurt Westi, tenor
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded by DR 6 June 1977
Six songs on poems by Paul la Cour for soprano and piano, Op. 54 (1951) [12.56]
Lone Koppel, soprano
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Private recording from radio broadcast 1963
Five songs on poems by Paul la Cour for soprano and piano, Op. 64 (1957) [9.55]
(Dedicated to Lone)
Lone Koppel, soprano
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Private recording from radio broadcast 1963
Three songs on poems by Nelly Sachs, Op. 84 (1971) [8.20]
(Dedicated to Lone Koppel)
Lone Koppel, soprano
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded by DR 17 July 1981
Three songs on poems by Tom Kristensen and Paul la Cour for soprano and piano, Op. 119 (1989) [10.28]
(Dedicated to Lone)
Lone Koppel, soprano
Nikolaj Koppel, piano
Recorded by DR live 1990
Three songs on poems by Verner von Heidenstam, Gustav Fröding and Erik Gustaf Geijer, Op. 121 (1990) [6.04] (Dedicated to Björn)
Björn Asker, baritone
Nikolaj Koppel, piano
Recorded by SR (Radio Sweden) 15 June 1991
Performers and recording locations and dates, as above
DANACORD DACOCD 567-68 [77.37 + 64.13]


Previous releases by Danacord of music by Herman D Koppel (see reviews of Volume 1, Volume 2 & Volume 3) have shown what a wealth of broadcast and private material exists, and how much continues to become available. There are some commercial discs here but in the main this represents another exciting tranche, this time of the vocal Koppel, broadcasts often with the composer as pianist.
 
That said I was not taken with his vocal and choral music in nearly the same way as I was with his concertos, solo piano and chamber works. Partly this is because of a certain evenness of tone, a profoundly consistent application of broadly Stravinskian influence - at least until the later, more atonal works - but also because he set so many Psalm settings and his responses to them, whilst varied to an extent, can become enervating.
 
This is partly a programming question of course. The chronology of the works does trace with clear direction the changes or modifications in Koppel’s compositional directions. Yet he remained, thankfully, individualist and direct in his utterances. Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms holds its sway over the earlier works – in fact through different diffuse ways it could reasonably be argued throughout most of the non-secular settings. It’s most clear in the Three Psalms for tenor solo, mixed choir, boys' choir and orchestra, which derive from the fruitful year of 1949. The nastiness of the march themes and the arching threnody of the first might invite biographical speculation but the final setting’s shofar-like brass calls and halleluiahs testify to Koppel’s determination of spirit and his sense of overcomingness.
 
The Op.46 Biblical Songs were suggested to him by Koppel’s friend Askel Schiøtz – they’re short, though not epigrammatic, and journey through an insistent central movement marked Ecstasy to end in a chordally powerful and uplifting procession of halleluiahs. W can hear something else in the Four Love Songs Op.47 – an eager eroticism and a supple elegance of expression that widens the emotive vocabulary still further. When Koppel sets his piano part at something of an expressive remove – say the rocking rhythmic piano underpinning of his Psalm 42 setting – we can also hear an interpretative gear change as the conjunction works fruitfully.
 
Rhythmic vitality, derived from Stravinsky once more, runs through the Three Songs on Psalm 142 – especially the third of the set, Joy (Psalm 100). When it comes to the secular settings one can feel slightly the impress of another of Koppel’s stylistic forebears, Nielsen. There’s a touch, no more, in the Jensen songs but more in the Paul la Cour settings. These songs realise in Koppel a greater frivolity and puckishness. The second last in the la Cour set has real litheness and vibrancy. The much later Nelly Sachs settings of 1971 have a far more hermetic and rigorously selective modernity about them – rather forbidding in fact – though they faithfully reflect the newer directions in which Koppel, ever questing, was travelling.
 
The performances are almost all accompanied by Koppel and his presence is a powerful inducement to listen. His singers include his daughter, Lorne, who has strong if not always welcomingly emollient voice and Kurt Westi, amongst others. Recording quality varies, obviously, from cycle to cycle given the private or broadcast nature of the originals but it’s never less than very listenable. Worries over source material can be discounted. There’s a good chronology and notes but no texts – rather disappointingly so in the case of the secular songs.
 

Jonathan Woolf


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