American Piano Music

Author: 
Peter Dickinson

American Piano Music

  • (6) Lieder, No. 4, Schilflied (wds. Lenau)
  • (3) Homages
  • Nocturne
  • (La) chute des feuilles
  • Fantôme de bonheur, illusions perdues
  • God Save the Queen
  • (4) Sketches, Dreaming
  • Ballad
  • (6) Lieder, No. 4, Schilflied (wds. Lenau)
  • (3) Homages
  • Nocturne
  • (La) chute des feuilles
  • Fantôme de bonheur, illusions perdues
  • God Save the Queen
  • (4) Sketches, Dreaming
  • Ballad

This record makes an atmospheric impression immediately with a polished, lyric ''Dreaming'' (from Four Sketches, Op. 15, written in 1892), by the pioneer woman composer Amy Beach (1867–1944). It is very much in the Chopin/Liszt tradition, specifically the latter's Liebestraume, but shows a command of the idiom characteristic of the best of the New England School. When reviewing a collection of Beach's songs (Northeastern/Koch International (CD) NR9004CD, 1/90) MEO found her ''a pleasing salon composer who had her off-days''. She was certainly on form for ''Dreaming'' and the more substantial Ballad which Alan Feinberg plays next.
The two Gottschalk pieces with French titles are reflective and meandering, the kind of texture which gave the pianist the chance to look for pretty girls in the audience, as he relates in his autobiography. God Save the Queen is a comic set of variations on the famous melody, given its British title even though the Americans had been singing it to My Country 'tis of Thee since 1831.
Finally Feinberg turns to the music of his own teacher, Robert Helps (born 1928) who is both composer and pianist. Helps's Nocturne and Three Homages were both written in 1973, although we are not told detail like that in Feinberg's accompanying notes. The Homages and the transcription of Mendelssohn's Schilflied are all in similar mood and cantabile style. The recording ends gently with the same salon atmosphere which has dominated throughout. The mood is held by the refined piano playing and an elegant piano sound to match. It may be unfair to ask for more contrast from this selection of American salon music which is designed to charm. Both music and playing succeed admirably without a disruptive stirring of deeper emotions.'

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