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Herman D KOPPEL (1908-1998)
Requiem for solo voices, chorus and orchestra op. 78 (1965-66) [53:57]
Concertino for Strings: No. 1 op. 32 (1938) [16:18]; No. 2 op. 66 [22:14];
Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra op. 82 (1970) [17:53]
Chamber Concerto for Violin and Strings op. 83 (1971) [12:38]
Lone Koppel (soprano) - Jephta's Daughter; Ticho Parly (tenor) - narrator; Rolf Jupiter - Job, Israel. Jephta; Willy Hatmann - Riben, Joseph; Mogens Schmidt Johnsen - Juda; Danish National Radio Choir; DR SO/JanKrenz (Requiem); DR SO/Lamberto Gardelli (op. 32/1); BBCSO/Rudolf Schwarz (op. 66); Jørgen Hammergaard (oboe) DR SO/Leif Segerstam (op. 82): Milan Vitek (violin) DR SO/John Frandsen (op. 83)
rec. Copenhagen, 17 May 1968 (Requiem); 1958 (op. 32/1); 18 February 1971 (op. 82); 22 September 1972 (op. 83); London, 6 February 1958 (op. 66). ADD
DANACORD DACOCD571-2 [53:57 + 69:25]
Experience Classicsonline

By my reckoning this is the fifth of Danacord’s revelatory series that I’ve reviewed devoted to historic or at least ‘pre-contemporary’ Koppel performances. The links below will fill in the biography and will also serve to show the width of preserved material in the archives.

Koppel began work on his Requiem soon after completing his oratorio Moses. It’s an imposing, stern and often unyielding work that seldom dissipates its grip throughout, in this performance, its fifty-three minutes. Nevertheless within this schema Koppel ensures that there is plenty of room for contrast, playing off solo voices against the chorus, and allowing a powerful sense of drama to develop. The second movement for example, Hiob I, generates tensile direction through the use of such a device, the solo voice writing being explicitly juxtaposed against the more emollient expressive choral statements, though the choir turns torrid and harmonically eventful in the succeeding movement as if to underline the mutability and fractious changeability of this work. Here, in Joseph, it’s the turn of the solo tenor to turn sorrowing. It’s certainly a work that plays up such stern angularities; when the soprano offers some form of consolation the orchestral brass reply brusquely; when the soprano lines in Psalm, the ninth section, seem to embody a kind of reconciliation, the unison string writing becomes withdrawn. The Requiem never ingratiates or offers false hope. The violent orchestral tumult in the concluding Psalm restates Koppel’s adamantine seriousness of purpose.

The second disc explores other areas. The Concertinos make for contrasting listening. The first is a sappy, snappy affair with a high energy, Stravinskian ethos, whose slow movement feeds on some witty answering string phrases, strongly enjoyed by Lamberto Gardelli, the possibly unlikely seeming conductor. Turn to the zesty, pizzicato prominent finale and its fine pay off for more examples of Koppel in unbuttoned 1938 mode. The second Concerto was written almost two decades later and occupies an altogether different sound world. It pursues twelve tone elements with terse lyricism and a keen sense of loss and is most effectively played by the BBC SO and Rudolf Schwarz. The Oboe Concerto is a different work altogether, as cheeky as a Minorcan sparrow, swift, swooping and agile as a kingfisher. There is something avian about its sheer agility. Its slow section is generous but compressed; the orchestration is clever and diaphanous; Koppel’s use of pizzicati and percussion colour - celesta, vibraphone - is mercurial and delightful. Finally there is the compact Chamber Concerto for Violin and strings. Here Koppel again returns to ideas of contrast; some austere writing prefaces the more vital rhythmic charge of the second part where some luscious writing ensures that the motoric dance ends boldly.

Needless to say this is another finely constructed and annotated entrant and a persuasive example of Koppel’s variousness throughout many years of composition.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett 

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