Salvatore presents an unusually complete stylistic survey: the high Romanticism of the Sonata in G Major, Copland's early flirtations with French impressionism and jazz, the classic Americana for which he's best known, and his bold modernism. Cedille's includes only original piano works (no transcriptions), performed with clarity and imagination by a leading exponent of American piano music. Composed at the behest of his traditionalist teacher Rubin Goldmark, Copland's Sonata in G Major is his most ambitious early work. "It demonstrates a familiarity with and mastery of traditional form and harmony that is impressive," writes composer Philip Ramey in his notes for the CD booklet. Ramey was a close friend and associate of Copland. Sonnet II (1919), a 27-bar miniature, is a sonorous, post-Impressionistic piece performed for the first time in 1985. The Cat and the Mouse (1920) caused a falling out between Copland and Goldmark over the "modernism" of its erratic rhythms and French impressionist veneer. The witty little piece became Copland's first published work. Three Moods (1921) marks the first appearance of jazz in Copland's work. Serious, abstract, carefully articulated -- yet emotionally stirring -- Copland's Passacaglia (1922) shows the influence of composition teacher Nada Boulanger, who stressed control and clarity. Copland insisted that the sweetly pastoral miniature Down a Country Lane (1962), commissioned by Life magazine, had nothing to do with a country lane. "I didn't think up the title until the piece was written," he said. Ramey discovered Copland's exquisite bagatelle Midsummer Nocturne (1947) while foraging through his friend's files in 1977. It premiered in Cleveland in 1978. The sternly challenging Proclamation (1973/82) and soothing Midday Thoughts (1944/82) are Copland's last works in any genre. Both are based on sketches for never-completed works. Proclamation was originally intended as a large-scale piano piece. Midday Thoughts dates back to Copland's Appalachian Spring period and shares the ballet's sweet temperament. The generous survey concludes with the fascinating Piano Fantasy (1957), Copland's most complex and virtuosic work for solo piano. He wanted it to suggest "a spontaneous and unpremeditated sequence of 'events' that would carry the listener irresistibly (if possible) from first note to last."
This recording is, of course, a must for Copland fans, who will find it satisfying and even revelatory. -- Fanfare