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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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George Copeland. The Victor solo recordings
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Prelude à L’après-midi d’un Faune transcribed Copeland
Menuet from Suite Bergamasque
Clair de lune from Suite Bergamasque
Sarabande from Pour le piano
Soirée dans Grenade from Estampes
Voiles from Preludes Book I
Le Cathédrale engloutie from Preludes Book I
La Puerta del Viño from Preludes Book II
Bruyères from Preludes Book II
General Lavine-Eccentric from Preludes Book II
La Terrasse des audiences du clair de lune from Preludes Book II
Ondine from Preludes Book II
Canope from Preludes Book II
Danse Sacrée *
Ronde from La Boîte à joujoux *
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)

Gnossiennes No. 1
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)

Adieu from L’Automne
Federico MOMPOU (1893-1987)

Cancion y Danza No. 4
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)

Tango in D Op. 165/2
Tango in A minor Op. 124
Malagueña
Cordoba *
Manuel INFANTE (1883-1958)

Canto flamenco
Joaquin NIN (1879-1949)

Serenata from Cadena de valses
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1949)

Fandango from Bailete Op. 79
Sacro-Monte from Danzas gitanas Op. 55
Emilio LEHMBERG

El Puerto
Ramon ZUERA

Igualada
Federico LONGAS TORRES

Aragon
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)

Playera No. 5
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)

Escana y Cancion del fuego fatuo
Gustavo PITTALUGA (b 1906)

Romanza de Solita
Danza de la hoguera *
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)

Saudades des selvas Brasileiras No. 2
Ernesto LECUONA (1896-1963)

Malagueña
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

English Suite No. 5 – sarabande; Passepied
Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn from Cantata No. 4 transc Rummel
ANONYMOUS Transcr. Copeland
16th Century Suite *
George Copeland (piano)
Recorded 1933-38 plus 5 items recorded in recital at Yale University in May 1964*
PEARL GEMS 0001 [2CDs: 126.15]

 

Not so long ago I reviewed another Pearl collection of George Copeland material – GEM 0121 – that contained rare live recordings made during the years 1957-63. Copeland (1882-1971) had long been active as a Debussy propagandist in his native America, performing premieres and all-Debussy programmes from the early years of the century. He first met the composer in 1911 and was famous for having performed at least one piece by the composer in all his recitals, from 1905 to his last in 1964. Copeland was a specialist; French and Spanish works were his great strengths. Concertos were almost totally absent from his repertoire and he publicly performed precious little of the central classics. The solo Victors, dating from 1933 to 1938, and presented here are, in fact, a perfectly precise reflection of his recitals and are naturally dominated by the composer who once, so famously, said of him "Mr Copeland, I never thought to hear my music played as well as that in my lifetime."

His colouristic virtues in Debussy have often been noted, as has the frequently astonishing rhythmic élan of his playing. His delineation of complex textual strands in this repertoire is especially notable and we have in these solo discs precious examples of contemporary performance practice from a known and admired exponent. His own transcription of Prelude à L’après-midi d’un Faune is characteristic inasmuch as it features playing of translucent tonal qualities supported by a rhythmic acuity that is at once profound and also perfectly relaxed. If not all his Debussy strikes one as gloriously as this it is still a potent reminder of his interpretative powers. His Clair de lune for example might be considered by some to be unmannered and dulcet; others might find it plain and frankly just a little dull. His much later live performance however – to be found on the Pearl set noted above – was very much in the same mould and his conception hardly changed through the intervening quarter of a century; it was the way he felt it. The Sarabande is most attractive and his playing of a few of the Preludes that he recorded show how advanced a thinker and how precise and convincing was his conception. Of course there will be cavils; La Puerta del Viño from Preludes Book II never really gets off the ground rhythmically speaking (unusually for Copeland in view of his usual mastery).

His command over other aspects of the modernist French repertoire is no less singular. His sole Satie features excellent diminuendi and also a degree of implacability and the Milhaud has great refinement of delicacy and touch. As much as the French played so important a role in his aesthetic sympathies, Copeland was also an avowed exponent of Spanish music. The roll call of names, big, small and dictionary-scurrying is vast – Turina, Albeniz, Nin, Infante, Mompou, de Falla, all, are here, and so are Lecuona, Pittaluga, Lehmberg and Zuera amongst others, usually represented by a single work, often tangy and zesty with dance rhythms predominant. This was Copeland’s forte and he relishes the repertoire. Along the way one will succumb to the infectious brio of his Mompou Cancion y Danza No. 4, the rubato laden Albeniz, his quick fingers and colouration of the same composer’s Malagueña as well as the powerful drama of his Turina. His Longas Torres Aragon drives deliciously whereas Villa-Lobos’s Saudades des selvas Brasileiras No. 2 is songful and inward. The last time I reviewed his Bach Chorale Prelude Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn in the famous Walter Rummel arrangement was in a Naxos disc of Bach piano transcriptions. It’s a great performance that grows in stature the more one hears it (even if I do prefer Rummel’s own recording) and this Pearl sounds much better than the Naxos – clearer, less muddied and ringingly triumphant. The disc also includes five live performances from Copeland’s last recital in 1964; all are consonant with his earlier playing, his technique having weathered better than most in the intervening years. The Suite of Sixteenth Century pieces is a bit distant and splintery sound-wise but the playing is as magnetic as before, Copeland having the knack, seldom over-exploited, of rising to a dramatic apex of a piece in a fluorescence of colour.

The note by Charles Timbrell is concise and helpful and, as I have intimated, whilst the sound of the late live recitals is a little clattery, the Victors have been most judiciously transferred. Admittedly they were in fine, forward sound for their time but they sound particularly well here. Of the two Copelands in the Pearl catalogue this is the one to which I’d direct you and by which you would profit more.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 



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