This is an excellent collection of Aaron Copland’s early orchestral works, written when the composer was in his twenties and mid-thirties. These pieces have not achieved the notoriety of Mr. Copland’s later “populist” compositions and contain more modernist devices. Some of these feature jazz elements (such as the Piano Concerto, Music for the Theater and the Dance Symphony, which was drawn from materials composed for the “Grogh” ballet). Despite the complexity of these selections, the music is both exhilarating and interesting, albeit challenging. Repeat listenings are required if one wishes to fully appreciate these compositions…
The German soprano Juliane Banse has sung the Lieder of Brahms, Schubert, Wolf, Ullmann, Strauss, Schumann, Loewe and Berg, earning a reputation for both the quality of her interpretations and the warmth of her timbre. She and her regular partner Martin Helmchen, who has just joined Alpha, have chosen to record Paul Hindemith’s song cycle Das Marienleben, composed in 1923 and revised by the composer in 1948. A bewitching, sometimes disturbing cycle whose texts, taken from the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke, retrace the life of the Virgin Mary. Fifteen poems, fifteen episodes tinged with mysticism and lyricism. They proved to be the ideal inspiration for Hindemith, whose compositional style here draws on both the power of Wagner’s operas and the subtle nuances of Debussy.
An enjoyable collection for White fans, although one might prefer one's spirituals on a bigger scale. That said, Willard White makes these well-known songs seem much more intimate and reflective, private rather than public. Swing low, pressed into service at last year's rugby world cup, is sung rather faster than usual. That's no bad thing, as the song can be made to sound rather lachrymose. For White there is a sense of eager anticipation, that heaven really is at hand. The Copland songs are enjoyable too and are sung with apparent enjoyment. They were all new to me and I can see myself returning to them for their witty lyrics and sense of fun. The Chandos recording is good and the voice is well caught. The accompaniment is discreet and intelligent, making this a delightful disc all round.
I'm a big fan of Copland. His music can be dramatic, sad, joyful, and just plain fun. I also think his music is a good vehicle for personal expression of the performer/conductor. I don't think this is true for all composers–-I cringe at some interpretations of Bach–-but I usually enjoy it when a performance of Appalachian Spring or Bill the Kid contains some individual stamp that indicates the performer is really feeling and enjoying what they are doing. The combination of Copland's timeless compositions and subtle playing effects can be very sophisticated indeed.
Yuri Bashmet developed a highly successful international career as a violist, but then, like so many talented instrumentalists of his generation, branched out into conducting, even founding an orchestra. He has never abandoned the viola, managing to split his time in even portions between soloist and conductor, often appearing in both roles in the same concert.
Allison Brewster Franzetti's debut on Naxos invites the listener to compare and contrast four early modern piano works, performed with muscular vigor and sharp intelligence, and presented in a terrific-sounding album. However, this disc's title is slightly inaccurate, for among the twentieth century piano sonatas by Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, and Karl Amadeus Hartmann is placed Arnold Schoenberg's Three Piano Pieces, which is neither a sonata nor even of the same century as the other works, as it dates from 1894.