Copland: Piano Concerto; Appalachian Spring Suite; Symphonic Ode

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WORKS: Piano Concerto; Appalachian Spring Suite; Symphonic Ode
PERFORMER: Lorin Hollander (piano); Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
First heard in Boston in 1928, Copland’s Piano Concerto has similarities with Gershwin’s 1925 piece in its use of jazz idioms in a classical context. The first of its two movements derives from a blues, the second – to use the composer’s own phrase – is a ‘snappy number’. It’s an appealing, unfairly neglected work which helps to define some of the characteristics of that distinctively ‘American’ language – sweeping melodic ideas, widely-spaced textures, night-time city music – that Copland did much to establish. ‘Enlightened Populism’ is the buzz phrase for Appalachian Spring, whose 1945 suite is heard here. With its fresh, dewy feel and its extraordinary sense of innocence, created (paradoxically) by the most sophisticated of means, it still strikes me as the composer’s masterpiece. The Symphonic Ode, written in 1927-9 for the Boston Symphony, is a twenty-minute essay in Copland’s abstract but discursive ‘serious’ style, and altogether less convincing. Solid work from Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony, though pianist Lorin Hollander’s musical demeanour is a little earnest for a jazzman. The dense but subdued sound quality does Copland’s textures no favours. George Hall