Nina Kavtaradze: Hermann Koppel Piano Concerto 3, Moshe Atzmon

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Hermann D. Koppel - Piano Concerto No. 3 (1948)
Performed by Nina Kavtaradze. Conducted by Moshe Atzmon with the Ålborg Symphony Orchestra.

I. Allegro - Un poco tranquillo - A tempo - Tempo tranquillo - Molto vivace - 00:00
II. Andante - 14:02
III. Rondo - Molto Allegro - 24:05

Herman D. Koppel was one of the greatest Danish musical personalities of the twentieth century. A hard-working composer, pianist and teacher, the patriarch of a musical dynasty that is a Danish counterpart of the Bach family in Germany; in Denmark the name of Koppel has become synonymous with musicianship of the highest quality through three generations and a wealth of genres. Herman D. Koppel was a pianist throughout his life, and played a large repertoire. Over the years he performed piano concertos by among others Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Bartók, Schoenberg and Jolivet, but - for various reasons - not concertos by composers like Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.

Of the intention and style of the Piano Concerto he said: "I have never wanted to write unworldly music, as little as I have tried to write what one could call easily accessible and comprehensible music." With the Third Piano Concerto the idea was "to compose a truly concertante piece that was to a certain extent outward-looking, but which should by no means be superficial (....) to find out how good a balance one can achieve between the artistic and the expressive."

The Piano Concerto is classically formed, with a first movement in sonata form, a slow second movement in tripartite form and a quick, virtuosic rondo as the final movement.Two short tutti chords mark A major as the starting-point for the first movement. Immediately after this in the piano one hears the curious, slightly sarcastic first subject, with a passing flattening of the tonality from A major to A minor and a naivistic accompaniment in the left hand. The second subject, unlike the highly imaginative first, keeps its initial motion within just three notes. It is heard for the first time played staccato by the full orchestra, and then legato in the French horns. The exposition of the movement is rounded off finely with a Carl Nielsen-coloured passage dominated by the brasses.

The development section begins un poco tranquillo with the piano accompanied by strings and a French horn, but soon the piano part bolts into runaway figurations. The recapitulation brings back the piano introduction, and the second subject is played by the horns once more. A short, motoric solo cadenza leads into a last repetition of the first subject and an accelerando ending.

The slow second movement is more conflictful. A plaintive theme of eight bars is heard a whole four times, played in turn by oboe, cello, flute and violins. Then the piano enters several times with a chordal theme, each time more vehemently, from dolce to fortissimo impetuoso. The two conflicting elements can even be heard together, and this creates a tension that leads to a rupture. In the middle section of the movement the piano takes the lead with powerful eruptions, whereas the orchestra is toned down to the rudimentary. The reprise of the first section gathers expression again, but it is the piano that has the last word with a melancholy repetition of its first statement.

The final movement is a rondo, molto allegro, where the piano functions as a virtuoso taskmaster. The movement is in 3/8 with a feeling of one beat to the bar, and begins with a Slavic-coloured melody. Then the piano comes in energetically with the first ritornello of the rondo, the recurring theme that is also repeated by the orchestra. As variation there are three episodes in the movement. The first has a melody in the violins while the piano plays arpeggios above it. The second ritornello is played by the trombones, after which the longest and most divergent episode follows. It is begun by the piano with a calm chordal melody, cantabile dolce. The third ritornello is played by trumpets and violins, and the episode that follows has the same theme as the violins in the first episode. The ritornello returns one last time, played by the trombones. An expansive allargando leads into a majestic passage, and the movement ends with a repetition of the Slavic theme from the beginning of the movement.