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CD Review

Aaron Copland

Piano Concerto & Appalachian Spring

  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra 1
  • Appalachian Spring - Suite
  • Symphonic Ode
1 Lorin Holländer, piano
Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz
Delos DE3154 DDD 62:17
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A little while ago I wondered what had happened to pianist Lorin Holländer. The trail of recordings, which started in the sixties with a number of impressive LPs for RCA Victor, seemed to have grown cool in recent decades. Several individuals pointed me to this recent Delos release, recorded in 1993-94, and it's my pleasure to report that Holländer sounds just as good here as he did thirty years ago. Delos's notes indicate that maybe I missed the boat: Holländer has been busy giving concerts and master classes, and he's been lecturing on musical, philosophical, and religious topics.

It is interesting to compare this recording of Copland's Piano Concerto with two that the composer made, one as conductor (with Earl Wild at the piano), and one as soloist (with Leonard Bernstein on the podium). Both of those performances are significantly faster than the present one, particularly in the first movement. The differences rest more in the soloist's cadenza-like passages than in the orchestral ones. After the concerto's "wide open spaces" opening, soloists Wild and Copland move forward plainly; Holländer is much more rhapsodic and introspective. Throughout the concerto, Holländer's playing reminds me of a high-minded debutante who needs to be flattered and teased into participating in the orchestra's jazzy goings-on. Wild and Copland are one (well, two) of the boys from the start. I like either of these approaches, and I certainly don't mean to suggest that there's something effeminate about Holländer's playing. His technique is muscular, and his overall interpretation is more subtle - but not necessarily more correct - than the alternatives.

Schwarz's Appalachian Spring is not an unusual performance, but it's fresh and outdoorsy, and at the end, touchingly tender, and so it's hardly a debit to this CD. Opus lists only one other recording of the early (1927-29) Symphonic Ode, and that one is conducted by the composer. Because that recording is available only within a 2-CD set from Sony Classical, the same set that includes the Copland/Bernstein recording of the Piano Concerto, Schwarz's recording has an economic advantage, even if it doesn't have a clear interpretive advantage. It clearly has a sonic one - Delos's 20 bit digital sound (Dolby Surround encoded, too) is far richer than what Columbia offered thirty years ago. There's nothing more to say about this excellent release, except to mention the dramatic cover art and Jim Svejda's notes, which begin, "The history of 20th century American music… would have been very different had it not been for a colorful, explosive, dictatorial Russian immigrant with a penchant for feuds, black rages and rich, beautifwomen named Serge Koussevitzky, the long-time conductor (1924-1949) of the Boston Symphony Orchestra." If you know any rich, beautiful women named Serge Koussevitzky, they might want to know about this.

Copyright © 1996, Raymond Tuttle