Aaron Copland made numerous recordings of his own music, including an extensive series for CBS during the 1960s and '70s, mostly with London orchestras. He was not an especially proficient conductor--consequently, the performances he conducted often lacked pace and rhythmic punch. His last recordings of his most popular scores have been reissued by Sony on an exceptionally well-remastered 3-CD set. These accounts do a good job of conveying the overall shape of the pieces, and they deliver telling characterizations of many episodes. Details emerge that are lost in some other accounts, and there is an appealing gentleness and sweetness to the approach. But the readings do not have as much grip as those of Bernstein and Slatkin, among others, and in spite of the authority they automatically possess, they are not necessarily preferable. --Ted Libbey
Born in 1929 in Montreal, André Mathieu, like Mozart, received his first lessons from his father, and was already composing little pieces at the age of four. Also like Mozart, he astonished audiences far and wide with his pianistic prowess from a very young age. When he was 12 years old, his composition, Concertino Op.13 No. 2, won First Prize at the Philharmonic-Symphony Centennial Young Composer's Contest in New York (over Leonard Bernstein's composition), organized by the Philharmonic Society of New York.
He performed it at a Gala concert at Carnegie Hall on February 21, 1942, three days after his 13th birthday.
His fame peaked around 1950. Thereafter he continued to compose, but the world took little notice. He indulged in day-long "pianothons," suffered a disastrous love affair, turned to alcohol, and died in poverty. Mathieu left behind wax recordings completed in private homes and studios of what the solo piano part of his Fourth Piano Concerto should sound like, how he envisioned the orchestral accompaniment to go, what the main and secondary themes should be, and many other ideas for the work. Ultimately, however, he ran out of time. It was left up to conductor and composer Gilles Bellamare to reconstruct, or perhaps create, the concerto from these recordings over the span of a year and a half.
Mathieu conceived of the concerto under the tutelage of Arthur Honegger while studying in Paris, where he moved when he was 17. Its influences are equal parts Romantic and Modern. "I hear it as perhaps a fifth Rachmaninoff concerto with a touch of Prokofieff," Bellamare recounted, "very energetic." Alain Lefèvre, pianistAcclaimed as a "hero" (Los Angeles Times), a "spectacular pianist" (Fanfare), a "smashing performer" (Washington Post), an "artistic winner" (Music Week, London), a "genial talent" (The Gazette), and as "the 10 most agile fingers to have emerged from Quebec..." (Toronto Star), Canadian pianist and composer Alain Lefèvre has a sparkling international career, touring repeatedly world-wide, performing to prestigious venues, in recital and with international orchestras and leading conductors. Having completed over a decade of extraordinary artistic leadership, George Hanson begins his 13th season as Music Director and Conductor of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in 2008. Critics have noted remarkable artistic growth by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra during George Hanson's tenure as Music Director since 1996, firmly establishing his reputation as an orchestra builder.
In the U.S., Mr. Hanson served as Associate Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony from 1988 to 1993, assisted Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic from 1993 to 2000, and was Music Director of the Anchorage Symphony from 1994 to 1999.