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American Piano Music / Christopher Harding

Copland / Gershwin
Release Date: 02/12/2013 
Label:  Equilibrium   Catalog #: 116   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Aaron CoplandSamuel BarberGeorge GershwinWilliam Bolcom
Performer:  Christopher Harding
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

AMERICAN PIANO MUSIC Christopher Harding (pn) EQUILIBRIUM 116 (56:41)

COPLAND El Salón México (arr. Bernstein). BARBER Excursions. Piano Sonata in eb. GERSHWIN Preludes for Piano. BOLCOM 12 New Etudes for Piano: Read more class="ARIAL12i">Hi-jinks; Hymne à l’amour

This delightful but somewhat quirky recital combines the music of four American composers in a musical mural as presented by pianist Harding. I had my suspicions about a piano arrangement of El Salón México, but darned if Harding’s wonderfully brisk style and élan didn’t elevate it to an enjoyable level. I was also quite captivated by Samuel Barber’s Excursions, written in 1942 at the urging of pianist Jeanne Behrend. This is Barber in a lighter, more whimsical mood than one would expect from him; perhaps the Gershwin Preludes had some ripple effect on these pieces. Essentially, they follow the pattern of the Gershwin in three of the four pieces: a fast, jazz-like opening (in this case a light boogie-woogie rather than Gershwin’s quirky beat), a blues-colored second piece, and a rapid-fire finale. The third movement, also rather jazzy, is an Allegretto.

These are followed by the famed Gershwin pieces, played with wonderful zest by Harding, before returning to Barber in the form of his 1949 Piano Sonata. In his liner notes, Harding extols the virtues of this sonata, particularly the last movement, which he describes as having “the biggest, toughest, coolest fugue of my experience,” but to my ears it all sounded rather formulaic, written to spec in an accepted style but not terribly creative or memorable. Very original and memorable, however, are two of William Bolcom’s 12 New Etudes for Piano, particularly the first of them, “Hi-jinks,” which scatters notes across the upper reaches of the keyboard with “a strange and ghostly humor.” Overall, then, a fine and spirited excursion into American piano music, concentrating on the 1930s and ’40s. If only Harding had included Morton Gould’s Boogie Woogie Etude, I’d have been in heaven!

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

El salón México by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Christopher Harding (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932-1936; USA 
Excursions (4) for Piano, Op. 20 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Christopher Harding (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942-1944; USA 
Preludes (3) for Piano by George Gershwin
Performer:  Christopher Harding (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; USA 
Sonata for Piano in E flat minor, Op. 26 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Christopher Harding (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
New Etudes (12) for Piano: Hi-jinks by William Bolcom
Performer:  Christopher Harding (Piano)
New Etudes (12) for Piano: Hymne ŕ l'amour by William Bolcom
Performer:  Christopher Harding (Piano)

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