BBC Music Magazine

American Landscapes


Farwell: From Mesa and Plain; Sourwood Mountain, Op. 78, No. 3; Edward Macdowell: Woodland

Sketches; William Grant Still:

A Deserted Plantation; plus pieces by Cadman, Copland, Grainger,

Roy Harris, AP Heinrich, W Mason, and Ornstein

Cecile Licad (piano)

Digital Classics DACOCD 800 76:03 mins A Danish record label, a Filipina pianist, and an ongoing ‘Anthology of American Piano Music’: it’s a heartening global combinatio­n in these divisive times. Cecile Licad’s third instalment brings us to landscapes, something America has in dramatic variety and abundance. Viewed strictly as music, though, much of her selection appears historical­ly interestin­g but stunted. There’s little jaw-dropping splendour or artistic breadth in Arthur Farwell’s ‘Navajo War Dance’ and its companions in From Mesa and Plain, or William Grant Still’s thinly stretched set A Deserted Plantation. Licad herself shrivels some of the music’s appeal by being overly fierce in attack (American resident Grainger’s Spoon River) or unduly dour – a distinct tendency in Macdowell’s Woodland Sketches, though the collection admittedly is less cosy than its title suggests.

Surprises and delights do exist: there’s the disarming naivety of Anthony Philip ★einrich’s Minstrel’s March; the florid European decoration­s flowing through William Mason’s Silver Spring; and Leo Ornstein’s A Morning in the Woods, benign very late impression­ism from a composer most famous for granite dissonance­s. And though Licad might be blunt with Macdowell’s ‘To a Water Lily,’ she’s gentle elsewhere, and is sympatheti­cally recorded. Geoff Brown



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