American Scenes

Author: 
Peter Dickinson

American Scenes

  • Canzone
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano
  • Nocturne
  • (3) Preludes
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano, "Vineyard"

This is another attractive Previn CD, following his all-Gershwin jazz album with bass-player David Finck (DG) and the collection of American songs with Barbara Bonney containing a fine performance of Copland’s Emily Dickinson songs (Decca, 2/98). Previn, the pianist, is on excellent form these days and Gil Shaham is a totally responsive partner.
The original three Gershwin Preludes work splendidly in the Heifetz arrangements and the Barber Canzona, best known as the slow movement of his Piano Concerto, retains all its mesmeric lyricism in this version. The Copland Nocturne (1926) is a rarity showing the influence of Gershwin and is related to the blues melody in Copland’s own Piano Concerto of the same year. The performance starts in mystical calm but somehow fails to deliver the dynamic strength that should be its climax around 4'30''. The Sonata is a vintage example of Copland’s own type of economical 1940s neo-classicism, especially when played like this, with rich cantabile and completely idiomatic rhythmic control. The only blemish in a winning performance is that Previn misses Copland’s indication for ironic staccato chords at the end of the last movement (5'27'') and holds them in the pedal.
Previn’s own Sonata is a big piece, named after Martha’s Vineyard, the fashionable island off the Massachusetts coast where he has a house. It was written in 1994 and premiered by him and Eunice Lee two years later and shows Previn luxuriating within the mainstream of American romanticism from Barber and Bernstein to Corigliano – not particularly individual but easy to listen to and obviously grateful to play. '

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