Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphony No.1 in B flat major, Op.38 Spring (1841) [31:26] ¹
Symphony No.3 in E flat major, Op.97 Rhenish (1850) [26:01] ²
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Parsifal (1882): Four Orchestral extracts; Act I; Transformation Music [4:42]: Act II; Introduction [3:05]: Act III: Prelude [4:19]: Act III: Transformation Music [3:59]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Salome (1905): Two orchestral excerpts; Jokanaan descends to the cistern [3:01]: Jokanaan is brought before Salome [3:02] ³
National Symphony Orchestra/Piero Coppola ¹
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire/ Piero Coppola ²
Orchestre des Concerts Pasdeloup/ Piero Coppola ³
rec. Kingsway Hall, London 1946 (Symphony No.1); Salle Rameau, Paris, 1933 (Symphony No.3, and Wagner): 1934, Paris (Strauss)

Piero Coppola (1888-1971) was born in Milan and studied piano and composition at the city’s conservatoire. Successively chorus conductor, opera and symphonic director, he is perhaps best known to record collectors for his pioneering work as artistic director of HMV in Paris where he was also active as a conductor. It was Coppola who brought Prokofiev to London to record his music, and who accompanied him on disc in the Third Piano Concerto. But from 1920 he had been active in Parisian studios as house conductor and this was where he remained until 1940.
Coppola had a most curious but intriguing discography: a lot of Debussy and Ravel, certainly, but also smaller pieces by Molinari, Roussel, and Honegger, as well as big works like Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony, Chausson’s Symphony in B flat and Rimsky’s Antar Symphony, all recorded before the War. It’s a legacy well worth exploring. In this release both sides of that wartime divide are included.
Schumann’s First Symphony was recorded in London for Decca in July 1946. The location was the acoustically superior Kingsway Hall, London, and the orchestra the hardworking National Philharmonic. One interesting feature was the set’s release date. Checking Michael Smith’s Decca Discography shows that not until June 1949 did it see the light of commercial day, fully three years after it had been set down. Coppola was a studio veteran by now and little could disturb him. His Spring Symphony opens with majesty and considerable breadth, slightly italicised in respect of phrasing but nevertheless cumulatively grand. He elicits a good body of tone from the orchestra - not everyone could, and not everyone did - and moulds the Larghetto with considerable distinction. He ensures horns and winds are well balanced sectionally.
That this Schumann success was no one-off can be demonstrated by his earlier recording of No.3, the Rhenish. This was recorded in Paris in 1933 and reveals freshness, energy, and a considerable amount of orchestral incident and colour. Clearly Coppola’s affinity for Schumann was of some standing as he marries flexibility and gravity with a genuine sense of underpinning momentum. In short, he cultivates a real Schumann sound.
Gap-plugging ensures that his pre-war, non-French recordings make an appearance. There are four excitingly forward moving orchestral extracts from Parsifal and two vivid, if brief extracts from Strauss’s Salome.
Coppola’s current status would certainly be enhanced by reissuing his Balakirev, and his d’Indy as well as the composers mentioned above, and others besides. These current transfers are excellent, and do justice to a musician who was much more than just a ‘house conductor’.
Jonathan Woolf 

Justice done to justice to a musician who was much more than just a ‘house conductor’.