Leonard Bernstein was an accomplished pianist and a prolific composer. And yet his oeuvre for solo piano is surprisingly small — small enough to fit onto two CDs. The first disc of this release collects all of Bernstein’s “Anniversaries” – miniature gems written for friends and colleagues. The second features his more extended piano works.
Bernstein’s twenty-nine Anniversaries span almost 50 years. Their dedicatees read like Who’s Who of theater and classical music. There are brief portraits of Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss, David Sergei Koussevitzky, Stephen Sondheim, Helen Coates, and many more.
Bernstein built each piece around a characteristic of his subject. Andrew Cooperstock digs into these works, highlighting the unique aspect of each miniature. Each one is a delight to listen to.
Also included is Bernstein’s student work, the Sonata for the Piano. This 1938 piece strives to sounds quite modern. But there are plenty of hints of the Bernstein-to-come buried in its pages. Cooperstock takes the work at face value, performing it in a straightforward fashion, leaving it to the listener to hear the promise of the composer.
Touches, Chorale Eight Variations, and Coda was written as compulsory work for the Van Cliburn Competition. It’s the most technically challenging work in the program, though Cooperstock performs it with seeming ease. Also included is Bernstein’s arrangement of El Salón México. This version of Copland’s score seems just a few steps away from “West Side Story.”
The album ends with Bernstein’s wedding gift to Adolph Green and Phyllis Newman. The Bridal Suite in 2 Parts with 3 Encores was written in fun, and that’s how Cooperstock plays it. The work is for piano four-hands. Cooperstock playing both parts in this recording.
Andrew Cooperstock’s interpretations of this material are as nuanced as Bernstein’s works. Playful, serious, intense, delicate — his playing is as varied as the material, and in every instance, spot on.
Leonard Bernstein: Complete Solo Works for Piano
Andrew Cooperstock, piano
Bridge Records 9485A/B
2 CD Set