ALBUM TITLE: Bernstein
WORKS: Complete solo works for piano: Anniversaries; Touches; Piano Sonata; Non troppo presto; Music for the Dance, No. 2; Four Sabras; El Salón México; Bridal Suite – In 2 Parts with 3 Encores
PERFORMER: Andrew Cooperstock (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 9485A/B
‘To my first love – the keyboard’: so reads Leonard Bernstein’s dedication to Touches (1980), his last substantial piano piece. The passion may have been real enough, though in a hectic life and career the composer mostly used the object of his affection for the musical equivalents of notebook jottings. As a wayward composition pupil of Walter Piston at Harvard, he managed a serious – if arid – 16-minute sonata, forcefully punched out here by Andrew Cooperstock. The first disc contains the 29 mostly thin-textured miniatures Bernstein called Anniversaries, written over the decades to significant friends and family, littered with material fruitfully recycled in bigger works. Copland’s greeting card, one of the earliest, echoes the master’s own mode of affecting simplicity. Others bring different delights, though Cooperstock’s sure touch cannot transform the collection into the modern equivalents of Chopin and Debussy’s preludes suggested in the booklet note.
The Sonata of 1938 and the bare-boned abstractions of Touchesgive the second disc greater ballast. Hot rhythms fly in the ingenious and taxing transcription of Copland’s El Salón México. The 1960 Bridal Suite, a wedding gift for his friends and colleagues Phyllis Newman and Adolph Green, is a miniature triumph of whimsical dexterity. Cooperstone’s crisp dispatch is pleasurable too, even though the recording at times brings him close to hammering. But the big fact remains: for the real meat from Bernstein, the music that lasts, listeners need to look elsewhere, mostly to his work for the stage.