Moses, op. 76

Herman D. Koppel
Sopr, alto, 3 tenor, 2 bass soli + Mixed choir, arpa/pno/cel/
Solo(s) + Symphony orchestra

As a Jew Herman D. Koppel had experienced the war at close quarters. The many horrors had aroused a need to react through music, and in 1963 this culminated with the oratorio Moses. The work is the largest and most personal expression of Koppel’s cultural roots in the Jewish people. 

Moses is the central figure of the Jewish faith and the idea of an oratorio with him as the pro­tagonist had been in the air for several years. One day when Koppel was reading the Old Testament something stirred, and in just two or three days he had the text ready. After that it took Koppel an amazingly short time to compose the music. In Koppel’s own words, “The work started by itself. A crea­tive wellspring had opened up. In the course of two weeks almost the whole work had been sketched out and after six I had composed its general lines”.

The oratorio Moses is a work about a fundamental ethical stance rather than a religious persua­sion. Again and again divine truths force mankind to make a choice. It is the story of man’s trial of strength with God, of mankind under the law that Koppel viewed as the fundamental condition of existence. 

The oratorio has a simple structure in six sections. It tells the story of the rise of civilization, of its relationship with the given and often cruel conditions of the world, of the appearance of the prophet Moses as God’s representative to mankind, and the death of Moses. Each section ends with a soprano solo that shows mankind’s thoughts and feelings about the words that God makes Moses pass on to them. 

As for the end of the work, Koppel explains: “The oratorio’s obligatory hallelujah has been trans­formed into the quiet resignation of the chorus. The Promised Land remains remote and unattainable”.

Moses was premiered on 21st October 1965 in a concert in the DR Concert Hall with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra/DR conducted by Miltiades Caridis. After that, thirty years passed before Koppel, at an advanced age, had a new opportunity to hear what is perhaps his greatest work.

OTHER WORKS BY Herman D. Koppel


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