Professor of Piano Andrew Cooperstock—at U. Colorado Boulder—celebrates B’s centenary (1918-2018), with the composer’s complete solo piano works, from his teenage years through his 1980 Van Cliburn Competition composition. A fine pianist, Bernstein cultivated a distinctive keyboard writing style, inspired mainly by Copland’s austere and learned Piano Variations (1930). B’s keyboard oeuvre has Robert Schumann as their ancestor: many works are suites of miniatures, each with musical significance for individuals and friends of the composer. The Seven Anniversaries have a tender, even dance-like character; the one for Paul Bowles captures his quirky disposition. Nathalie and Serge Koussevitzky receive plaintive homage; the latter has pungency like Bartok.|
The first of Four Anniversaries celebrates Felicia Montealegre, the Chilean stage actress who became B’s wife. Helen Coates has a spunky element with West Side Story sensibilities. For Lukas Foss recalls B’s quip, “Lukas is the hardest-working, most self-destructive man I know.” For Elizabeth B. Ehrman is jazzy and brief. Of the Thirteen Anniversaries, the bluesy 3rd celebrates Stephen Sondheim. In Memoriam: Goddard Lieberson, is a ticklish stride piece. For Jessica Fleischmann has a ringing, clarion sonority. Debussy’s angular harmony pervades In Memoriam: Constance Hope.
Touches combines Second Viennese School polyphony, Copland, and jazz. The piano revels in percussive effects, which occasionally soften into stinging bells. B’s Sonata for the Piano, quirky and impulsive, comes from his student days. The middle mvmt becomes large and exclamatory. A fugal section leads to harshly dissonant final pages, rife with forearm clusters that dissolve to leave a simple, plainchant sensibility.
Non Troppo Presto and Music for the Dance No. II are angular, often in debt to Debussy and Prokofiev. The 1950s Four Sabras utilizes motifs from Candide to celebrate those born in the newly formed Jewish state. The transcription of Copland’s orchestral work, El Salon Mexico has drunken rhythms weave and sashay and then explode into rhythmic gems. The Bridal Suite for piano 4-hands is eminently “theatrical;” the ten short pieces embrace Phyllis Newman and Adolph Green, Chaplin, the movie Bell, Book, and Candle, and traditional wedding dances. The clever Prelude comes from the Bach’s C Major in the Well Tempered Clavier, but adds whiffs of Broadway and 47th Street.