Copland: The Young Pioneers: complete music for solo piano

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COMPOSERS: Copland
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: The Young Pioneers: complete music for solo piano
PERFORMER: Leo Smit (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SM2K 66345 ADD/DDD
Copland’s solo piano music encompasses a variety of styles and idioms, from the basically tonal serialism of the three major compositions (the Variations, the Sonata and the Fantasy) to the gentle serenity of the Sunday Afternoon Music, to the jazz elements in the Four Piano Blues and in some of the longer abstract works.

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Arthur Berger referred to Copland’s ‘combination of leanness and grandiosity’, Wilfrid Mellers to the ‘human energy – empty space opposition’. Yet original though Copland’s music is, it shares Bartók’s percussiveness and Stravinsky’s rhythmic organisation. And it uses the resources of the piano to the full.

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Smit enjoyed a long association with Copland and is the dedicatee of the Three Moods and the first of the Piano Blues. He’s a virtuoso, with impeccable dynamic control, forceful in the climaxes but relaxed at moments of repose. He has a clear sense of the structure of the larger works, and in the jazzy pieces he’s soulful or perky as the occasion demands. His reading of the huge, rambling Fantasy is magisterial, and he’s hypnotic in the glacial finale of the Sonata. A compelling release which no genuine Copland admirer should miss. Wadham Sutton