Piero Coppola. Debussy from the 1920s

Back again so soon?  Well, I will try to get this project done and up for your listening pleasure soon.  This is the first of 3 cds worth of rare recordings by Piero Coppola, who was at this time the “house” conductor and musical director for La Voix de son Maître, the French branch of His Master’s Voice.  His discography during these years is very large indeed, but his work has not been reissued with much regularity with the exception of Prokofiev’s own recording of his 3rd Piano Concerto, accompanied by Coppola.  There WAS a series of 8 cds issued by the Dante/Lys label a few years ago, but the label is now defunct, sad to say.  In this series of posts, I am featuring recordings that were NOT included in that series, in this case earlier versions of works by Debussy that were re-recorded to take advantage of better recording techniques.  Some signs of the early electric recording techniques, or more accurately, what the recording companies often did to compensate for a perceived lack of a heft in the lower end at this time, comes in the form of reinforced orchestration for some low string passages.  In Caplet’s orchestration of the Children’s Corner Suite you can hear this rather grotesquely, but generally the sound is quite pleasingly balanced for the time, and far better than many of the dry studio recordings from the period.

Coppola’s ability to bring out color and sensuality, and always find a beautifully singing musical line, is coupled with a refusal to dawdle, notably in the briskly economical La Mer.  I find this refreshing, and perhaps even unique.  The issue of vibrato in orchestral string playing at this time is fascinating to study.  Generally there IS less vibrato overall, but to hear the difference between this overall leanness and a truly intentional non-vibrato effect listen to Nuages from the Nocturnes.  The color that Coppola conjures from the strings is startling at first, but, I think, very appropriate for the way the musical lines move.  There are some rough edges to some of the playing, including a few issues of wind intonation gone off a bit, but overall the unforced eloquence of the playing wins over the imperfections.

A huge round of thanks to Ward Marston for making available to me his large collection of Coppola recordings, and even better, making the disc to digital transfers (except for the electrical Chabrier, an old effort of mine).  To allow us to dub more recordings, Ward entrusted the editing and side joins to me.  Thank you Ward!

Debussy:  La Mer
Orchestre Symphonique du Gramophone
La voix de son Maître W 1022/24
Matrices: CN 336/37 & 294/97
Recorded February 18, 22 & 26, 1929

Debussy: Nocturnes
Orchestre Symphonique du Gramophone
La voix de son Maître W 947/49
Matrices: CK 3048/53
Recorded May 31, 1928

Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
Orchestre Symphonique du Gramophone
La voix de son Maître W 837
Matrices: CFR 475/76
Recorded April 1, 1927

Debussy:  Children’s Corner Suite (arranged by André Caplet)
Orchestre Symphonique du Gramophone
La voix de son Maître P 707/9
Matrices: BFR 118/23
Recorded October 14, 1926

Chabrier: España
Orchestre Symphonique des Concerts Pasdeloup
La voix de son Maître  W 542
Matrices: CT 337/38
Recorded January 17, 1924

Chabrier: España
Orchestre Symphonique du Gramophone
La voix de son Maître L 678
Matrices: CT 4009/10
Recorded June 4, 1928

Piero Coppola, Conductor


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22 Responses to Piero Coppola. Debussy from the 1920s

  1. yves dekimpe says:

    Hello Neal
    best wishes for the new year!
    I’ve sent you an email once or twice in the months gone by, reg. 3 unedited van Kempen recordings I sent you on cd earlier on. Have you had some time to listen to these and decide whether they’re useable for you? If so, I’m think they might make a nice addition for your blog.
    Best wishes

  2. CharmNick says:

    Amazing! Thank you so much! Nick

  3. Pingback: Piero Coppola conducts Chabrier’s España | Neal's Historical Recordings

  4. David Stearns says:

    Hi there! So glad you’re back! I love your taste in performances, especially the Czech things, which are seriously rare.
    Has anybody had trouble processing the Coppola files? They download just fine, but my Audacity program doesn’t know how to cope with them once they’re here. I tried downloading from both sources and it was the same story.
    Also, there was talk on your blog some months ago about a Van Kempen Mahler 4th. An unpublished Mahler 1st recently came out on Tahra – it’s worth hearing but not great – but the 4th is the great white whale, occasionally sighted but never captured!

  5. tatifan says:

    You’re very welcome! Happy New Year as well!
    @Yves….yes, so sorry, I had such a ridiculous schedule last fall that I was hardly able to work on a single project, but I really DO need to look at those van Kempens you sent me….

  6. tatifan says:

    @dps…..speaking of things Czech, I’ve got some more of the pianist Frantisek Rauch in the pipeline, including a wonderful Schumann Fantasie. Glad you’re enjoying my offerings, but sorry about the Audacity issues. This was the first time I didn’t go over to my “virtual” Windows XP to create rar archives, since I was on the road without that particular machine…..if you are on a Mac, I recommend the free program called XLD, which will transcode to WAV or AIFF very easily. Btw, that van Kempen Mahler 4th was issued by Doremi recently, but I haven’t heard their version of it yet.

  7. Satyr says:

    Happy 2011 for you! Glad you’re back, and this is beautiful!!! I love Coppola’s conducting, think he’s underestimated. Thanks!

  8. squirrel says:

    This is a juicy boxed set indeed! I look forward to exploring it, but I’ll have to cut out a chunk of time for it, it would seem. “Hold my calls!”

    I recently came into a 78s set of the conductor Walther Straram, who premiered “Bolero,” doing “Daphnis et Chloe” with his orchestra. I wonder if you know of this guy’s work? LYS released a nice boxed set of his stuff (including works by Florent Schmitt and much ravel) but copies have become quite pricey. I wonder what you know and how you feel about this artist.

    All warmest winter greetings,

  9. squirrel says:

    Seems I always have a P.S… But I tried to download this, and both Rapidshare and Megaupload are quite slow. Actually the latter seems to not be moving at all at the moment, so I canceled the download.

    Mediafire continues to be very quick. I know it comes with some pop-ups, but so does Megaupload, so might be worth consideration. I’ll try again later, I suppose. Thanks

  10. tatifan says:

    Hope you enjoy the Coppola, Squirrel….I’m almost ready with part 2. I DO enjoy those Straram records, and I’m pretty sure I have that Lys issue. I think VAI also had a compilation.

    I had terrible problems with Mediafire and corrupt uploads….it would take 3 tries to get a good one and I had to test each and every one. At least Fileserve doesn’t seem to have popups (that was also ONE good thing about RS)….I’ve had friends complain about the slew of popups in Mediafire and Megaupload, and some of these are bad enough to have to shut down the browser. Remixshare looks interesting (http://s02.remixshare.com/). Parallel downloads are possible, no captchas and fast downloads, but it looks like files can’t be stored for longer periods of time.



  11. Pablo Varela says:

    Hi Neal, glad to see you back and thank you for share this extraordinary recordings.
    Best wishes.

  12. squirrel says:

    Part 2?!? ~ Oh la la! Can’t wait! Cheers, S.

  13. Mike Harkin says:

    Re Coppola: Glad to see someone doing the earlier versions; look forward to #3!

    Could you do a volume 4 with the acoustic Pelleas, and including the first 25cm disc from the electrical — which was omitted, for no apparent reason — by both Pearl and

    • Mike Harkin says:

      When do you think you might get to the Coppola Pelleas with the sides omitted
      from previous reissues?

      • tatifan says:

        Soon, I hope…end of the semester crunch for one more week, then time to work on records again! I now have the earlier version of Iberia from Images to put with this, but I must join the sides on it…

  14. tatifan says:

    #3 almost ready….probably tomorrow. I don’t have access to the acoustic Pelleas (yet), but let me see about the electric….I have to check as to whether I can share the “private” transfer from a friend of mine….I don’t know what’s missing on those 2 cd issues, so I’ll check that as well.

    • mike harkin says:

      AFAIK, only the first 25cm of the Panzera. Pearl COULD have fit it in by eliminating the Milhaud song, and Andante had PLEENTY of room to include it!

      Hoo unnastanzit???!!!

      Keep up your yeoman work!

  15. Dr.K says:

    I just discovered your blog: congratulations for it and also for this great post!
    Too bad that 3 pieces seem to be missing: Soirée dans Grenade, L’isle joyeuse and Cloches à travers les feuilles. Do you know where we could find them?
    All the best,

  16. Przemysław says:

    Thanks! I can’t stop listening to this collection. The “Sirenes” sound truly magical.

  17. Christopher John Smith says:

    The very deepest thanks for posting this.

    I am currently two and a half minutes into “ La Mer ”. This is perhaps the most astounding recording I have ever heard. Literally from the very first seconds there are details I have never heard before. I recall the Toscanini 1936 BBC Symphony recording (it was once on an EMI Références – I miss those) being extraordinarily vivid – this strikes me as surpassing it handily.

    I am wholly unfamiliar with the legacy of Maestro Coppola. I look forward to this being a great discovery.

  18. David Ellis says:

    Thank you for posting the Coppola recordings. I enjoy them very much

  19. Evgueni says:

    I’ve been looking for these recordings for a while now. Is there a chance you could reupload it to a working file sharing site as mediafire ?

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