Herman D. Koppel

(1908-1998)

The composer and pianist Herman D. Koppel was one of the greatest Danish musical personalities of the twentieth century. He was the son of a Polish-Jewish couple who moved to Copenhagen at the beginning of the twentieth century. At seventeen Herman D. Koppel was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He made his debut as a pianist in 1930, but already before that his first works had been performed. As a composer Koppel was on the whole self-taught, inspired by among others Carl Nielsen, Bartók and Stravinsky; but jazz and ethnic music also influenced him as a young man.

Koppel had to escape with his family in 1943 from the German persecutions of the Jews. When he returned after the end of World War II he established himself as one of the most important figures in Danish musical life. He composed industriously and wrote a succession of clear, striking works. He was also appointed professor of piano in Copenhagen and was much in demand as a concert soloist. In time his four musical children also became leading figures in musical life, and the Koppel family is today Denmark’s best known musical dynasty.

Herman D. Koppel was active as a composer for 65 years – a unique career! He composed in all forms and genres. His major works include seven symphonies and several solo concertos, sonatas, chamber music, piano works and many vocal works. He also wrote film music, educational pieces and cabaret songs – almost 300 works in all, characterized by vital rhythms and strong melody lines. Herman D. Koppel’s music makes an immediate impression, while at the same time arousing reflection.

Koppel was awarded several awards, scholarships and grants; amongst others, the Ancker Grant in 1945, Wilhelm Hansen's Honorary Gift in 1957, the Carl Nielsen Award in 1958, the Carl and Anne Marie Carl Nielsen Honorary Award in 1979 and the Wilhelm Hansen Composer Award in 1995. 

***

Long Biography

The composer and pianist Herman D. Koppel was one of the greatest Danish musical personalities of the twentieth century. He was the son of a Polish-Jewish couple who moved to Copenhagen at the beginning of the twentieth century. His father was a poor tailor, but the family acquired a piano even before Herman was born, so that their first-born could become a pianist.

At 17 Herman D. Koppel was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He became a pupil of Rudolph Simonsen and Anders Rachlew, and made his debut as a pianist in 1930. By then the first of his own works had been performed.

As a composer Koppel was on the whole self-taught. He had advice from the national composer Carl Nielsen, who throughout Koppel’s life remained one of his artistic ideals, and who gave Koppel recommendations to take with him. Koppel’s other models included Bartók and Stravinsky, and he also took a strong interest in jazz and ethnic music.

In the 1930s Koppel was one of Denmark’s most experimental composers. He wrote music in all genres from symphonies to cabaret songs. At the same time he worked as a pianist, for example as an accompanist to the famous tenor Aksel Schiøtz.

His career was drastically interrupted in 1943 when he had to flee with his family from the German persecutions of the Jews.

He returned in 1945 and soon established himself as one of the most important figures in Danish musical life. He composed industriously and wrote a succession of clear, striking works. He was also appointed professor of piano in Copenhagen and was much in demand as a concert soloist.

The war had left deep marks on Koppel’s life and music. His works from the 1940s and 1950s are serious and ethical, and under the influence of the massacres of the Jews he wrote a long series of vocal works to texts from the Old Testament. At the same time he kept up his joy in music-making, which makes many of his works lively and witty.

Herman D. Koppel was active as a composer for 65 years – a unique career typified by constant development. He wrote music in all forms and genres. His major works include seven symphonies and several solo concertos, sonatas, quartets, piano music and a number of important vocal works. Koppel drew the line at serial music and never himself wrote music with the 12-tone technique. But his pen was always sharp, and in the 1970s he composed some of his edgiest, most modernist works. His last work, a string piece from 1994, has the apt title Memory.

Besides his music he left us four children, all of whom became important musicians, and a large flock of grandchildren who carry on the Koppel family in the third generation as Denmark’s leading musical dynasty.

Few Danish composers have lived such an eventful and fruitful life, and on the centenary of his birth Herman D. Koppel’s personality and significance remain undiminished. The many new CD releases of his music have underscored his central position in the Danish music of the twentieth century.

Available Works

All categories Solo 2-6 Instruments 7+ Instruments Choir Orchestra

  1. Variationer og Resumé over 9 Etuder af Czerny

    1979 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  2. Sinfonietta, op. 41

    1946 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  3. Variationer for lille orkester, op. 27

    1935 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  4. Oldkvad, op. 24

    1934 • Herman D. Koppel

    Choir

  5. Three Songs, op. 96

    1976 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  6. To sange, op. 92b

    1973 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  7. Musik for strygere, op. 6

    1930 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  8. Divertimento, op. 91

    1972 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  9. Ouverture for lille orkester, op. 22

    1934 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  10. Strygekvartet nr. 1, op. 2

    1929 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  11. Three Songs, op. 90

    1972 • Herman D. Koppel

    Choir

  12. Capriccio for violin og orkester, op. 23

    1934 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  13. Præludium, op. 10

    1931 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  14. Introduktion, tema med variationer og epilog, op. 85

    1971 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  15. Concertino for String Orchestra No. 1, Op. 32

    1938 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  16. Kammerkoncert, op. 83

    1970 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  17. Moses, op. 76

    1964 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  18. Trio, op. 11

    1931 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  19. Syv tostemmige stykker, op. 12

    1931 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  20. Tema med variationer, op. 8

    1930 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  21. Som du

    1990 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  22. Immortalitas Mortalium, op. 58

    1954 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  23. Duo for violin og klaver, op. 9

    1930 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  24. Davids 6. salme, op. 55b

    1952 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  25. Suite op. 86 for violoncel solo

    1971 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  26. Davids salmer, op. 74

    1962 • Herman D. Koppel

    Choir

  27. Strygekvartet nr. 4

    1964 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  28. Divertimento Pastorale

    1955 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  29. Variationer og Fuga

    1929 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  30. Klaverstykke, op. 7

    1930 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  31. Symfoni nr. 7

    1961 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  32. Klaversonate, op. 1

    1928 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  33. Klaversonate, op. 50

    1950 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  34. Duo for klarinet og fagot

    1932 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  35. 3 sange og 2 viser

    1934 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  36. 15 miniaturer

    1976 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  37. To sange

    1982 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  38. Tre sange

    1971 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  39. Fire sange

    1933 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  40. 5 Salmer af David

    1990 • Herman D. Koppel

    7+ Instruments

  41. 3 sange

    1989 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  42. Klaverkoncert nr. 2

    1938 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  43. Symphony No. 2

    1943 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  44. Symphony No. 1

    1931 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  45. Symphony No. 4

    1946 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  46. Koncert for fløjte og orkester

    1972 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  47. To salmer af David, op. 55a

    1951 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  48. Seks sange til tekst af Poul la Cour

    1951 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  49. Three Songs, words from the Holy Bible

    1976 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  50. Fest-Ouverture

    1939 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  51. Strygekvartet No.2

    1939 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  52. Suite for Klaver, op. 21

    1934 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  53. Concertino nr. 2

    1957 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  54. Tre sange

    1990 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  55. Årstiderne

    1957 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  56. Fem bibelske sange

    1949 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  57. Intrada

    1979 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  58. Dialog

    1977 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo

  59. Giocattolo

    1993 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  60. Musik for violin og klaver

    1991 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  61. Koncert for fløjte og orkester

    1971 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  62. 4 improvisationer

    1970 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  63. Variazioni Pastorale

    1975 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  64. Sonatine for blæserkvintet, Op. 16

    1932 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  65. Patch-work

    1981 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  66. 11 variationer over eget tema

    1935 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  67. Musik for Blæseroktet

    1991 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  68. Variazoni libre

    1976 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  69. Suite

    1936 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  70. 9 Variations

    1969 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  71. Davids 42. salme

    1969 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  72. Variations on a Jewish folk dance op. 17

    1932 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  73. Trio

    1986 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  74. Trio

    1971 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  75. Memory

    1994 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  76. I Dis og Drøm

    1992 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  77. 8 Variations and Epilogue

    1972 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  78. Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra

    1989 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  79. To Bibelske Sange, op. 59b

    1955 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  80. Skabelsens 7. Dag

    1984 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  81. Concertino op. 110

    1983 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  82. Fire Gammeltestamentlige Sange

    1981 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  83. Forspil til en symfoni

    1979 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  84. Concerto for Orchestra

    1978 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  85. Cantilena Duo

    1988 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  86. Quartet

    1986 • Herman D. Koppel

    2-6 Instruments

  87. Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra

    1970 • Herman D. Koppel

    Orchestra

  88. 15 miniaturer

    1976 • Herman D. Koppel

    Solo




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