Copland: Piano Sonata; PianoVariations; Four Piano Blues; Passacaglia; The Cat and the Mouse; Our Town; Midsummer Nocturne; Down a Country Lane; In Evening Air

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Copland
LABELS: Silva Screen
WORKS: Piano Sonata; PianoVariations; Four Piano Blues; Passacaglia; The Cat and the Mouse; Our Town; Midsummer Nocturne; Down a Country Lane; In Evening Air
PERFORMER: Eric Parkin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SONGCD 906 DDD
This music distils that same spirit of small-town and rural America that you find in the paintings of Edward Hopper and the plays of Thornton Wilder. In fact some of the music was actually written for the film version of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. These pieces, like Copland’s famous ballet scores such as Billy the Kid, have an astringent, rather touching lyricism that occasionally descends to a naive ‘folksiness’.

Advertisement

Fortunately Copland encountered an antidote to folksiness in the formidable figure of Nadia Boulanger, who during his student days in Paris stiffened his musical sinews with her brand of severe, rather Stravinskian Neoclassicism. You can hear the results on this disc in the Piano Sonata and Piano Variations, two craggy, austere works of considerable power. The constant alternation in these works between static grandeur and energetic forward propulsion is difficult to bring off in performance, but Eric Parkin achieves it very well, and he avoids sentimentality in the ‘folksy’ pieces.

Advertisement

My only complaint is that the sound, though pleasantly warm, lacks the necessary range. You never hear a real ‘pianissimo’ (quiet as possible), and the bass lacks power in the loud passages – whether due to the pianist or the recording is hard to say. On the whole, though, this is a fine disc.