Music for the Theatre / Concerto for Piano & Orch Import
This important Copland collection includes at least two indispensable items. Copland was an incomparable player of his own music, and his performance of the Piano Concerto has more bounce and jazz in it than any other I've heard. And Connotations, one of Copland's late, adventurous works, is still very seldom heard. Just because it doesn't sound like Appalachian Spring doesn't mean it isn't great Copland. Music for the Theatre is another under-appreciated work. Of course, Bernstein's conducting in all this music is completely sympathetic. The version of El S疝on M騙ico is Leonard Bernstein's brash 1951 mono recording, never on CD before. --Leslie Gerber
The reviewer below might scare new listeners off by describing Music for the Theater (1925) and the Piano Concerto (1926) as tough modernism. Both are saucy, jazzy works that bring immediate enjoymnet. I wouldn't call them any more modernist than Milahud or Poulenc--indeed, both works have a whiff of Parisian chic about them. The performances here, needless to say, are as good as it gets. Copland used the concerto as his calling card, and he is quite a good pianist, supported with vivacious enthusiasm by Bernstein.
The ploar extremes of difficulty are represented by the ever-popular El Salon Mexico, which Bernstein performs with great suavity and sexiness; this 1951 mono recording isn't the best, but it's clear and bright. At the time of release it competed with a famous 78-rpm recording from Bernstein's mentor, and an equally great champion of Copland, Serge Koussevitzky. Finally, we get the 12-tone Connotations for Orchestra composed in 1962 for the opening of Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. I had remembered the work as "granitic," to use the word favored by the writer of the program notes, but actually it has more lyrical qualities and a prominent piano part that really isn't difficult to absorb, despite the atonal idiom. As with late Stravinsky, the theory may be updated, but you can sitll hear the familiar voice of Copland underneath.
In sum, one of the classics of the entire Copland discography.