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Reviews: American Piano Music, Volume I

The MHS Review 398 VOL. 12, NO.2 • 1988

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Richard Freed, Stereo Review (December 1984)


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Copland: Proclamation for Piano; Midday Thoughts; Thomson: Two Sen­timental Tangos; Two Portraits: Phillip Ramey Thinking; Senza espres­sione: Bennett Lerner; Bowles: Six Preludes for Piano; Six Latin-American Pieces; Barber: Ballade for Piano, Op. 46; Bernstein: Touches; Ramey: Piano Fantasy. Bennett Lerner, Piano.

Bennett Lerner and Phillip Ramey were something more than godfathers in respect to the Copland and Thomson pieces recorded here. [In 1982] they persuaded Copland to complete the Proclamation he began in 1973, and Lerner got him to finish the Midday Thoughts, begun as far back as 1944. Thomson's deliciously contrasting little Tangos were composed in 1923, but the Portraits were sketched only [in 1983], one a deadpan study of Lerner, the other an agitated one of Ramey.

Ramey's own Fantasy is quite the most substantial piece in this collection in terms of depth, contrasts, and technical demands as well as sheer length (about ten minutes). The dozen little pieces by Paul Bowles, composed between 1934 and 1947, also exhibit a range as remarkable as their con­ciseness. The Barber and Bernstein pieces are the only ones here that have been recorded before; in both cases, I feel Lerner's brisk approach brings a certain gain in cohesiveness. The piano sound, ex­cept for a slight clanginess in the opening Copland piece, is absolutely first-rate, and it is enhanced by the Teldec DMM pressing.

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