American Classics - Copland: Works For Violin And Piano

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from Daniel Felsenfeld's Liner Notes:

Copland seemed to have two separate sides, the populist and the aesthete. The Sonata for Violin and Piano seems to fall in between the two, being jaunty and full of good tunes, but also based on sophisticated harmonies and unorthodox musical schemes. The piece is dedicated to Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham, a close friend of Copland’s who died in battle, and the date of its première (17th January 1944, with violinist Ruth Posselt and the composer at the piano) shows that war was probably very much on the pacifist Copland’s mind. Cast in three movements with traditional titles (Andante, Lento and Allegretto giusto) this is truly a neo-classical work, but it is also pure Copland; as with everything, he took what he needed of the theoretical conceits, but ultimately composed to his instincts.

Two Pieces for violin and piano, which Copland wrote in the mid 1920s for himself and violinist Samuel Dushkin to play in a Boulanger-sponsored concert in Paris, is a chance to see Copland playing with new ideas, including a new fascination with jazz (this is also the period he was writing his heavily jazz-influenced Piano Concerto). Much of this music would be mined for later scores, but they do hold interest on their own. This is music that is bitonal (in more than one key at once), undoubtedly influenced by Darius Milhaud, whom Copland esteemed highly. In the Ukelele Serenade Copland is having a good time trying to make the fiddle sound like something it is not.

Copland’s piano trio Vitebsk, one of his few "Jewish" works, is here arranged for violin and piano. It is a startling piece, full of wailing dissonances, even using microtones, notes which fall in between the cracks of piano keys, not of the "Western" well-tempered system. It is based on The Dybuk, a Jewish folk-tale, which also fascinated George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein, about spirits and doomed love in a small Hasidic community, and Copland hoped the music would, in his own words, "...reflect the harshness and drama of Jewish life in White Russia." It is, therefore, a lean, almost angry work, with many moods contained in its taut single movement.

Dipping even further into the well of Copland’s juvenilia, Two Preludes for Violin and Piano are attempts to translate poetry into music, as Liszt had done in his tone poems. The poets in whom Copland found inspiration were Witter Bynner and Wallace Stevens, both contemporaneous and American. Here we see the seed of the Copland yet to come, the off-kilter rhythms, the stark harmonies, and the sparseness of texture. The titles offer their own explanations; these are musical moment pieces, composed to a single-focused and specific idea of mood.

Originally scored for flute and piano, Copland’s Duo was re-scored by the composer in 1977 at the request of Robert Mann, the violinist for the Juilliard Quartet and Copland enthusiast. The "all-but" sonata was therefore transcribed into this version, which took a good deal less time than the composition - Copland worked for three years on the Duo, commissioned by William Kinkcaid. The famous flautist wanted something that would work "...like a sonata," and Copland certainly delivered the goods, offering a tightly formed work in three movements. The second movement in particular, the composition of which took most of the three years, evokes, in the composer’s own words "a certain mood that I connect with myself - a rather sad and wistful one, I suppose."

The ballet Rodeo was a divisive moment in Copland’s career, a complete smash hit, and yet the piece that managed to alienate him from much of his community. Copland, they thought, had sold out. Copland even incorporates some memorable American folk-tunes. It is a cowboy romance, full of wranglers and cowgirls, and culminating in a hoedown. The choreography and scenario were by Agnes de Mille, who, on the strength of her work on Rodeo, was hired to choreograph a new musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein called Oklahoma!, and Copland composed dutifully to her vision, though he preferred his idea for a ballet about Ellis Island. The 1942 première at the Metropolitan Opera was an enormous success, with a standing ovation. The suite from the work is one of Copland’s most recognizable achievements, with hundreds of performances and countless wonderful recordings.

Daniel Felsenfeld


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: 8559102


  • UPC: 636943910221


  • Label: Naxos


  • Composer: Aaron Copland


  • Performer: Paul Posnak, Peter Zazofsky, Ross Harbaugh



Works:


  1. Sonata for Violin and Piano

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  2. Pieces (2) for Violin and Piano

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  3. Vitebsk

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Ross Harbaugh (Cello), Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  4. Prelude for Violin and Piano no 1

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  5. Prelude for Violin and Piano no 2

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  6. Duo for Flute and Piano

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  7. Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes - no 4, Hoe-down

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  8. Billy the Kid: Waltz

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  9. Billy the Kid: Celebration (after Billy's capture)

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  10. Duo for Flute and Piano

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  11. Duo for Flute and Piano

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)


  12. Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes - no 4, Hoe-down

    Composer: Aaron Copland

    Performer: Paul Posnak (Piano), Peter Zazofsky (Violin)