See also review of the Schumann First performance on a Dutton
Piero Coppola (1888-1971) was born in Milan and studied piano and
at the city’s conservatoire. Successively chorus conductor, opera
symphonic director, he is perhaps best known to record collectors for his
work as artistic director of HMV in Paris where he was also active as a
It was Coppola who brought Prokofiev to London to record his music, and
accompanied him on disc in the Third Piano Concerto. But from 1920 he had
active in Parisian studios as house conductor and this was where he
Coppola had a most curious but intriguing discography: a lot of Debussy
Ravel, certainly, but also smaller pieces by Molinari, Roussel, and
as well as big works like Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony,
Symphony in B flat and Rimsky’s Antar Symphony, all recorded
the War. It’s a legacy well worth exploring. In this release both
of that wartime divide are included.
Schumann’s First Symphony was recorded in London for Decca in July
The location was the acoustically superior Kingsway Hall, London, and the
the hardworking National Philharmonic. One interesting feature was the
release date. Checking Michael Smith’s Decca Discography shows that
until June 1949 did it see the light of commercial day, fully three years
it had been set down. Coppola was a studio veteran by now and little could
him. His Spring Symphony opens with majesty and considerable
slightly italicised in respect of phrasing but nevertheless cumulatively
He elicits a good body of tone from the orchestra - not everyone could,
not everyone did - and moulds the Larghetto with considerable
He ensures horns and winds are well balanced sectionally.
That this Schumann success was no one-off can be demonstrated by his
recording of No.3, the Rhenish. This was recorded in Paris in 1933
reveals freshness, energy, and a considerable amount of orchestral
and colour. Clearly Coppola’s affinity for Schumann was of some
as he marries flexibility and gravity with a genuine sense of underpinning
In short, he cultivates a real Schumann sound.
Gap-plugging ensures that his pre-war, non-French recordings make an
There are four excitingly forward moving orchestral extracts from
and two vivid, if brief extracts from Strauss’s Salome.
Coppola’s current status would certainly be enhanced by reissuing
Balakirev, and his d’Indy as well as the composers mentioned above,
others besides. These current transfers are excellent, and do justice to a
who was much more than just a ‘house conductor’.
Masterwork Index: Schumann symphonies