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Bernstein: The Age of Anxiety; Bolcom /Hamelin, Sitkovetsky

Album Summary

>Bernstein, Leonard : Symphony no 2 "Age of Anxiety"
>Bolcom, William : Piano Concerto
Performer Conductor Ensemble
  • >

Notes & Reviews:

This new Hyperion album features two rather jazzy American works with piano in definitive performances by pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin and the Ulster Orchestra under Dmitry Sitkovetsky. There are a number of entries in the catalog for Bernstein's "Age of Anxiety" Symphony, including performances by the composer himself. The Bolcom Piano Concerto, however, appears only once aside from this recording, on a VOX CD. Excellent playing in both pieces from pianist and orchestra alike.

'Sparkling, electrically charged recordings' (Fanfare, USA)

'Hamelin is on typically sparkling form' (Gramophone)

'The recording is everything one could want' (Amazon.co.uk)

'I like this record a great deal' (Hi-Fi News)

'Hamelin is faultlessly fluent' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Hamelin is outstanding' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'To hear Bolcom's exuberant eclecticism on a bigger canvas, try the recording of the Piano Concerto on Hyperion... An air of bravura piano virtuosity, which the soloist Marc-André Hamelin brings off well' (BBC Music Magazine)

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
After Hamelin's fantastic virtuosity in the outrageously difficult Godowsky Studies on Chopin'sEtudes (for which he won the Gramophone Instrumental Award 2000) these two works for piano and orchestra are - for him - mere bagatelles. But this is an impressive release since it contains the most convincing account of Bernstein's Symphony No 2 (1949) in recent years.

The whole piece is Bernstein's obsessive response to Auden's poem The Age of Anxiety, published the year before, about four characters struggling to sort themselves out in New York City. Even though Auden apparently disliked it, you can increasingly hear Bernstein's Symphony as saturated with the poem, its ideas and atmosphere. Often programmatic, it represents a particularly original approach to piano and orchestra and is personal in countless ways - the gentleness of the soft opening and its mystical descending scale, the precisely engineered variations, memorable tunes, a splendid jazzy Scherzo and so on.

Hamelin and the Ulster Orchestra in fine form under Sitkovetsky deliver a well-paced and cogent performance right up to the deliberately inflated, optimistic ending. Bolcom is one of the most idiosyncratic American composers of the next generation. His 1976 Piano Concerto draws widely on various types of popular music, which he's always performed superbly. The Concerto was written in memory of his teacher, Darius Milhaud, who'd have loved it.

The opening movement is captivatingly serene until the blue notes get out of hand; the slow movement is more stable and serious; but the finale comes over as a riotous celebration of Americana. Unfortunately Bolcom intended it to be ironic, as a kind of anti-bicentennial tribute.

But tunes like these have a habit of occupying centre-stage on their own terms. Hamelin is again utterly scrupulous and idiomatic, and delivers all the musical styles with supreme confidence - nobody could have mixed them up like Bolcom.


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Works Details

>Bernstein, Leonard : Symphony no 2 "Age of Anxiety"
  • Performer: Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
  • Conductor: Dmitry Sitkovetsky
  • Notes: 01/16/2000-01/17/2000
  • Running Time: 2 min. 36 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1949-1965

>Bolcom, William : Piano Concerto
  • Performer: Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
  • Conductor: Dmitry Sitkovetsky
  • Notes: 01/16/2000-01/17/2000
  • Running Time: 9 min. 48 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 1976