Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

GEORGE COPELAND (piano) – The private recordings 1957-63
Jean-Phillipe RAMEAU (1683-1764)

Les grands seigneurs
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Fantasy in C minor K475 (1785)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Faschingsswank aus Wien Op. 26 (1839-40)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Suite Bergamasque (1905)
Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut [Images Book II] (1908)
The Little Shepherd [Children’s Corner] (1906-08)
Danse de Puck [Preludes Book I] (1910)
Hommage à Rameau [Images Book I] (1905)
Feuilles mortes [Preludes Book II] (1913)
Prelude in A minor [Pour le piano] (1910)
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)

Gymnopédie No. 3 (1888)
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)

Seguidillas [from Cantos de España] (pub 1896)
George Copeland (piano)
Recorded privately 1957-63
PEARL GEM 0121 [75.12]


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Copeland was regarded by many as one of the leading Debussy interpreters. Born in Boston in 1882 he first met the composer during the course of Copeland’s European tour of 1911 (though he’d begun playing Debussy’s music much earlier). The composer said that "I never thought to hear my music played so well in my lifetime" but as with all such endorsements other pianists proved equally laudable exponents (Grieg was similarly effusive concerning Arthur de Greef but he happily and equally praised Grainger and Eisenberger). Apparently Copeland included one piece of Debussy’s in every recital he gave between 1905 and 1963 – a remarkable and doubtless unique homage – but he was also known for his playing of Ravel, Falla and Nin. His concerto engagements seem to have been as good as non-existent – Donald Manildi’s notes tell us that he performed only two works, Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Mozart’s Concerto K482. Which is taking scrupulousness to the limits of asceticism.

What makes this release so full of interest is not simply the Debussy but also Mozart and Schumann – not otherwise commercially recorded by Copeland (Pearl have released his commercial Victor discs – GEM 0001 - and I have to say that on balance they are significantly preferable to these, despite the considerable amount of compelling pianism on view here). His Rameau for example is rather charming and though the Mozart Fantasie in C has its moments – primarily those of clarity – the main impression that remains is of a certain pedestrian heaviness in his approach. Faschingsswank aus Wien is reasonable – but we’re not talking Magda Tagliaferro class here, to take a supreme French Schumann stylist. The Allegro is rather circumspect but the Romanza stands out as genuinely withdrawn and coloured with delicacy. And whilst the Scherzo isn’t quite note perfect it is full of an animating wit and the Finale drenched in the kind of clarity that derives from a logical intelligence. When it comes to Copeland’s Debussy we can hear several important components of his musicianship – strength and clarity in the Prelude of the Suite Bergamasque, crisp rhythm and colourfully graded chording in the Menuet and a very cool Clair de lune – aloof and really rather indifferently phrased. And yet Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut is marvellously burnished, Feuilles mortes resonant with the most introspective chill. His sole Satie is attractive and despite some waywardness and finger slips Albéniz’s Seguidillas has real energy.

Originally recorded on tape – or in a couple of cases on lacquer discs – Seth Winner has done a fine job with edits and surface noise. And if these performances do not make a cast iron defence of Copeland’s Debussyian credentials these rare sides are handy adjuncts to the commercial Victors and offer a glimpse into the otherwise little explored hinterland of late Copeland.

Jonathan Woolf

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