Works for Piano Four-Hands

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Uncle Dave Lewis
David Kopp and Rodney Lister are both professors of composition and theory at Boston University. In 1997 and 1998, when the New World release Works for Piano Four-Hands was recorded at the New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall, Kopp and Lister were teaching at separate institutions yet maintaining a piano duo. Serendipitously, two of the composers heard here are considered members of the so-called "Boston School": Harold Shapero and Arthur Berger. Virgil Thomson, of course, belongs to his own unique category as composer and as one of Nadia Boulanger's earliest American students, but shares with Berger the distinction of a career in music criticism in addition to ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Uncle Dave Lewis
David Kopp and Rodney Lister are both professors of composition and theory at Boston University. In 1997 and 1998, when the New World release Works for Piano Four-Hands was recorded at the New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall, Kopp and Lister were teaching at separate institutions yet maintaining a piano duo. Serendipitously, two of the composers heard here are considered members of the so-called "Boston School": Harold Shapero and Arthur Berger. Virgil Thomson, of course, belongs to his own unique category as composer and as one of Nadia Boulanger's earliest American students, but shares with Berger the distinction of a career in music criticism in addition to composition. The main event here is Harold Shapero's "Piano Sonata for Four-Hands" 1941, premiered in 1945 by the composer and the young Leonard Bernstein and later recorded on a mono LP by Shapero and Leo Smit. This is one of the finest and most distinctively American of all four-hand piano works and has long deserved a digital recording; Kopp and Lister have done well just by virtue of providing one, and it's a good one. Their performance is a little more clipped and articulated -- and a little less jazzy -- than that on the ancient mono Columbia LP, but it is taut, disciplined, and well captures the cosmopolitan spirit of Shapero's music. While this sonata is recognizably "American" and neo-classic in style, it does not evoke the wide open spaces one is used to in contemporaneous works by Aaron Copland, but instead captures close-quarters city living and the rhythm of the street. While Shapero never saw need to adopt serial techniques in his multi-modal and intuitive music, Arthur Berger was a different case. Berger's earliest surviving music is serial and represents a very early use of the technique by an American in the continental U.S., but Berger quickly abandoned it in favor of his unique spin on neo-classicism. Berger picked up serialism again in the 1950s, only to abandon it for good around 1980, so in a sense he was both ahead of, and behind, the international curve. Kopp is a particularly aggressive advocate for Berger; in addition to recording the serial "Composition for Piano Four-Hands" disc says "1960s," but NYPL -- who has Berger's manuscript collection -- dates it to 1976, Kopp requested four-hand arrangements from Berger of other pieces from within his canon; these arrangements were among the very last things he dished up, as Berger died in 2003. The "Suite for Piano Four-Hands" provides a mini-career encapsulation and is made up of Capriccio 1933; one of the early serial pieces, Aria 1947, and Rondo 1945, and "Perspectives III" is drawn from Berger's "Chamber Concerto" here dated to 1953; NYPL dates it to 1960. The Capriccio is a totally crazy and fun piece; jazzy, angular, and full of surprises. Even in his neo-classical music, Berger is very quirky, inquisitive, and exploratory, stopping and starting at abrupt points, never keeping a thread of argument going for long and maintaining a restless kind of trajectory. While Berger's music is technically secure, it presents a strong challenge to the listener in terms of keeping up with its twists and turns and it isn't as immediate as the Shapero. Nor is it so in relation to John Kirkpatrick's four-hand arrangement of Virgil Thomson's familiar "Symphony on a Hymn Tune" 1928; stripped of its thinly applied, but effective, orchestral tissue, Thomson's plainness and extreme economy of means is exposed for what it is. The last minute or so of the Andante cantabile has almost no sense of forward movement; bare fifths and single lines of music abound throughout the piece. Quotations that in the symphony might impart some degree of sentimental attachment, taken from tunes such as "Jesus Loves Me" and "A Bear Went Over the Mountain," are fully revealed as tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, at least from Thomson's jaded point of view. One thing about New World's Works for Piano Four-Hands that represents a calculated gamble on the part of Kopp and Lister; the Berger is wild mismatch for the Shapero and to an extent the Thomson, though the Thomson is at least closer in attitude to Berger. The dice being thrown is that listeners will get all three of these composers owing to their pedigree and shared historic context, whereas in all likelihood some listeners will prefer the middle third of the disc and others the outer ends. Nevertheless, New World's Works for Piano Four-Hands is a worthy release that fills in some major plot holes in the story of twentieth century American music and provides several refreshing subtexts for study, not the least of which is some of the stylistic clashes that American neo-classicism had with external forces before becoming regarded as obsolete in the face of serialism.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/4/1999
  • Label: NEW WORLD RECORDS
  • UPC: 093228053620
  • Catalog Number: 80536

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–3 Sonata for piano 4-hands - Harold Shapero & Rodney Lister (17:57)
    Composed byHarold Shapero
    1. 1Very Slowly - Moderately Fast - Very Slowly - Tempo
    2. 2Slowly - Slightly Faster - Slowly
    3. 3Fast - Slightly Faster
  2. 4 Composition for piano 4-hands - Arthur Berger & Rodney Lister (13:00)
    Composed byArthur Berger
  3. 5–7 Suite for piano 4-hands - Arthur Berger & Rodney Lister (10:48)
    Composed byArthur Berger
    1. 5Capriccio
    2. 6Aria
    3. 7Rondo
  4. 8 Perspectives 3 - Arthur Berger & Rodney Lister (8:41)
    Composed byArthur Berger
  5. 9–12 Symphony No. 1 "Symphony on a Hymn Tune" - arranged by Kirkpatrick, John - Virgil Thomson & Rodney Lister (22:52)
    Composed byVirgil Thomson
    1. 9Introduction and Allegro
    2. 10Andante cantabile
    3. 11Allegretto
    4. 12Allegro
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