Koppel: Piano Concerto No. 3; Symphony No. 5; Prelude to a Symphony

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LABELS: Dacapo
ALBUM TITLE: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3; Symphony No. 5; Prelude to a Symphony
PERFORMER: Nina Kavtaradze (piano); Aalborg SO/Moshe Atzmon
CATALOGUE NO: 8.226027
Don’t be put off by the dry little Prelude to a Symphony that opens this disc. The Danish composer Hermann D Koppel’s Symphony No. 5 is a compelling, well-argued piece with plenty of angry, dark intensity and some strong musical ideas. If it doesn’t quite rise to the heights of his visionary oratorio Moses (also available on Dacapo), the Fifth Symphony is recommended to anyone who admires the symphonies of Koppel’s Nordic contemporaries Vagn Holmboe and Eduard Tubin. But it is the Third Piano Concerto that will probably have the widest appeal. Tuneful, rhythmically lively, with a nice line in ironic humour, it nods towards neo-classical Stravinsky, Bartók, Koppel’s teacher Nielsen and perhaps – more distantly – Gershwin, but the result is far from derivative. The piano was Koppel’s own instrument, and solo writing is particularly effective, with some lovely dialogues with the orchestral soloists. Nina Kavtaradze is a very persuasive soloist, and the orchestra seems to enjoy working with her. And there’s none of the slightly sour wind intonation that mars one or two passages in the Fifth Symphony. The recording for the concerto – well balanced and less up-front than in the Symphony – also works particularly well. Stephen Johnson