Tenafly NJ (USA)
? America for Two
GERSHWIN Preludes (arr. G. Stone),
Cuban Overture (arr. G. Stone),
Porgy and Bess Fantasy (arr. Grainger). COPLAND Danzón cubano, El
salón México (arr. Leonard Bernstein). BERNSTEIN West Side Story (arr.
Piano Duo Genova & Dimitrov
cpo 777039-2 (68:55)
Note-writer Eckhardt van den Hoogen seems to be quite a humorist in addition to being an informed and informative conveyor of historical and musical data. His extended essay reads like Kirkegaard: ?Things could have been so wonderfully simple and so simply wonderful. I was just beginning to like the idea that an introductory text is sometimes only an introductory text (to
paraphrase Sigismund Shlomo Freud, our Professor Know-It-All in matters of the Human-All-Too-Human).? He then proceeds to build his case that Gershwin, Copland, and Bernstein stand in relation to American music as Bach, Handel, and Telemann stand in relation to the German Baroque?an interesting analogy I could poke a hole or two in, were I in an argumentative mood, but I?m not, so moving on. Unquestionably, there are connections, both personal and musical, among the pieces selected for this program, and it is those connections that seem to be at the heart of van den Hoogen?s argument.
In 1925, Gershwin began work on a sketchbook that was to include a collection of piano preludes. He played five of them at a New York concert in 1926, but only three of them were published. The Cuban Overture was inspired by the composer?s trip to Havana in 1932. The Porgy and Bess Fantasy was not just arranged by Percy Grainger; if I am not mistaken, it was his own invention, written in the grand tradition of the opera paraphrases of Liszt.
Van den Hoogen finds a close parallel between Gershwin?s jazz and blues derived pieces and Copland?s Piano Blues , begun in the same year that Gershwin debuted his preludes. Following in Gershwin?s footsteps some nine years later, Copland traveled to Havana, and upon his return composed his memento postcard Danzón cubano for two pianos, the only piece on the CD heard in
its original form.
A somewhat more ambitious travelogue is Copland?s popular El salón Mexico , named for a Mexican dance club the composer visited while in Mexico at the invitation of Carlos Chávez. The piece was orchestrated and premiered by Chávez and the Mexico Symphony in 1937.
Van den Hoogen?s logic starts to unravel a bit when he tries to force-fit the pieces of his puzzle together by asserting that Bernstein?s model for his Symphonic Dances from West Side Story was Grainger?s Porgy and Bess Fantasy . First, the
Symphonic Dances are from Bernstein?s own hand. Second, unlike Grainger?s Gershwin medley, Bernstein?s work is a suite that preserves the integrity of the extracted materials within a carefully structured and balanced formal plan. There can be no doubt listening to it that this is the major and most important offering on the disc.
The CD cover bears the title ?America for Two,? a reference to the German duo-piano team of Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov. The duo was founded in 1995, and has since won every major duo competition. It is easy to hear why. They are most impressive, particularly in the Bernstein, which has a number of murderously tricky passages. Cpo?s sound, as usual, is exemplary.
Recommended. Jerry Dubins