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Piano Sonata / Piano Fantasy

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Audio CD, May 17, 2005
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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. Piano Fantasy29:25$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Piano Sonata: I. Molto moderato 7:51$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Piano Sonata: II. Vivace 4:59$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  4. Piano Sonata: III. Andante sostenuto 9:03$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Piano Variations11:46$0.89  Buy MP3 

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Piano Sonata / Piano Fantasy + The Chamber Music Of Aaron Copland
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 17, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American
  • ASIN: B0008JEKFO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,521 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

This extremely useful disc collects Copland's major piano works in fine performances. None of these pieces has much similarity to Copland's greatest hits like Appalachian Spring or Billy the Kid. They are among the composer's most adventurous works of their periods (one each from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s), and none is "easy listening." Instead, each one offers challenging, exciting music of great substance and greatly differing form, from the strict Variations to the lengthy, ruminative Fantasy. Interestingly enough, they are programmed here in reverse chronological order. Copland once told a friend that the Piano Variations was his favorite of his works. Pasternack makes you understand why, with a riveting, intense performance, more austere and thus grander than any since the composer's own magnificent version from 78s. Copland's friend Leo Smit recorded a more comprehensive collection of his piano music, worth having for its completeness. But Pasternack's playing serves the music even better than Smit's. The recorded sound is excellent and so are the program notes. --Leslie Gerber

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 6, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Aaron Copland (1900 -- 1990) is best known for his populist works, such as Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Billy the Kid, and Old American Songs, that incorporate American folk idiom into a classical style. As inspiring as these works are, they do not represent all of Copland. Aaron Copland was a learned, modernist composer who had studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger in the early 1920's. In addition to his popular, accessible compositions, he wrote experimental, austure works showing his mastery of serialism and other components of 20th century style.

Among Copland's modernist works are the three piano compositions on this CD written at widely-spaced times in his career. These three works are deeply personal and tightly written. They make frequent use of serial technique, which Copland combines with tonal sections, and shifting rhythms (the bar indications change every few measures). The works make use of deep, open harmonies particularly in the lower register of the piano, and every note tells. These austure works give the feeling of solitude, of meditiation, of spacial distance and of personal expansiveness. They are essential works of American piano music.

The performer, pianist Benjamin Pasternak, is on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of Music and he plays this intense music with feeling and understanding. My fellow reviewers below prefer other readings for some of this music. Be that as it may, this CD presents Copland's major works for solo piano on one CD, well-performed, and at a low price. It is an ideal way for the newcomer to Twentieth Century American music to get to know three seminal works.

The earliest of the three works is the short (11 minute) Piano Variations composed in 1930 when Copland was 30.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 22, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Aaron Copland composed at the piano. It was his instrument and he was a competent pianist. Most of the works for which he is best known -- the ballets, the 'Fanfare for the Common Man,' and the rest of it -- were composed initially at the piano and only later orchestrated. These three works -- interestingly presented here in reverse order to that in which they were composed -- are his most important solo piano works. As far as I know they have not appeared on the same CD before. There are, of course, well-known recordings of each of them, most importantly by William Masselos and Leo Smit, but those are getting a bit long in the tooth. So, it is nice to have them gathered here in what are acceptable performances by Benjamin Pasternack, student of Mieczeslaw Horszowski and Rudolf Serkin, former pianist with the Boston Symphony and for some time now a professor of piano at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. I have learned that exactly the same program played by Robert Weirich will be released later this year on the Albany label. Having heard Weirich play the 'Piano Fantasy' in concert, I am eager to hear that release.

As I say, these are competent performances. Certainly nothing is lost in these traversals. One can quibble with Pasternack's choices in certain instances -- for instance, he plays the 'Piano Fantasy' noticeably faster than Masselos, who gave the work its première; the metronome marking for the declamatory opening of the 'Piano Fantasy' is quarter note = 48 and Pasternack takes it at something more like quarter note = 60. Not a huge difference, but enough to feel it. And it gives the opening a different character than one has come to expect.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John Kounios on June 20, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Pasternak's performances of the Piano Sonata and the Piano Variations are quite good, but he completely misses the mark with the Piano Fantasy. He plays all three pieces in the same style. But the Fantasy is different from the others. About 30 years ago, I attended a recital by the late William Masselos at Bryn Mawr College. The main work of the program was the Piano Fantasy, which he had premiered for Copland back the in the 1950s. The performance was absolutely mind-bending! Luckily, Masselos original LP recording was still available on the old Columbia Odyssey label, so I ran out to buy it. Masselos performance is presumably a definitive interpretation, because of his interactions with the composer himself. What is unique about this performance is that the Fantasy doesn't come across as a harsh, percussive, composition, but rather as the first example of what one might call "new age space music." The piece is PSYCHEDELIC, not a Bartok retread as it is in Pasternak's recording. This is exemplified by the timings -- Masselos' recording was several minutes longer than Pasternak's. So I hope the Sony remasters and reissues Masselos' recording. Until then, listen to Pasternak for the Sonata and for the Variations only.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Classicalfan on July 15, 2006
Format: Audio CD
These three works show a completely different side of Copland than his most popular works, such as Rodeo, Appalachian Spring, or Billy the Kid. This is not popular classical music. It is about as far from easy listening as one can possibly get. It is an abstract exploration of sound, silence, intervals, rhythms, and textures on the piano keyboard. At moments, it is harsh. But it is never dull.

At times striking in its power, with massive chords that resonate and virtually shake with percussive force, at other times quiet, slow, subtle, introspective, and hypnotic, as in moments of the Andante sostenuto section of the Piano Sonata that give the impression of gently floating in vast regions of empty space, this is a musical journey that is demanding, austere and intense, but very well worth making. The CD essay is well-written and informative. Total Playing Time = 63:08. Very highly recommended.
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