Penguin Guide To Compact Discs

Raymond Clarke now provides what is the most satisfying single disc of Copland’s piano music. He opens with the early Passacaglia, composed in 1921-2, while the composer was in Paris and dedicated to Nadia Boulanger. It is a self-consciously serious work, easy to follow, and in Clarke’s hands attractively diverse. The “craggy” Piano Variations of 1930 follow on naturally after it (even the keys are related). Clarke then proves completely at home in the Sonata. His opening is arresting and the first movement develops thoughtfully and naturally, the main theme quite haunting. The jazzy syncopations that arrive later are handled with aplomb; the Scherzo is played with sparkling bravura, so that the serene lyricism of the finale is the more moving. The Fantasy is handled with equal understanding, especially in its changes of mood and tempo, and altogether this collection leads the field. The recording is outstandingly vivid and realistic, with a full sonority in the bass. A most satisfying and rewarding collection. *** (“outstanding”)