Copland was a huge influence on the young Bernstein as the Hebrides Ensemble revealed in this fascinating survey of their works in this enthralling programme. Written when Bernstein was a 19-year-old student, Piano Trio shows a young composer in search of his voice.
But there are some telltale Bernstein signs such as the jazzy pizzicato in the second movement and his playful endings to movements. But you would never think it was by Bernstein, just as Copland’s splashy Piano Variations, delivered with verve and commitment by James Baillieu, is hard to reconcile with the composer who wrote Appalachian Spring. Given its popularity, Copland wrote a chamber version for 13 instruments played superbly by Hebrides. They captured the bright-eyed optimism and expansive horizons of Copland’s homespun American style in this intimate arrangement.
The biggest revelation was Bernstein’s last major work, the song cycle Arias and Barcarolles for mezzo-soprano, baritone and piano with Baillieu and Philip Moore duetting and scatting as required.
These eight vignettes – Bernstein wrote most of the lyrics – offered touching insights into beautifully observed domestic scenes. J’nai Bridges and Alex Otterburn sang convincingly together and separately about a variety of subjects from love, weddings and children to the aftermath.