Ken Glickman writes in a preview of a Lansing Symphony "orchestral Americana" concert:
American classical music almost seems like an oxymoron.
A provocative thought but the article goes on to describe the usual idea of American classical style being a synthesis etc. from which Aaron Copland and George Gershwin created something unique.
Copland's El Salón México, featured in that concert, was dedicated by Copland to Leonard Bernstein. As his first publication while at the Curtis School of Music in 1941, Bernstein wrote the piano transcription of the work.
I have to say I've heard this piece many times and never liked it. This year, I bought Eugenie Russo's American Piano Music CD, heard the piano arrangement for the first time, and changed my mind. Partly, I've been listening lately to so much modernist/ultra-modernist piano music from the 1920s/30s and I finally made the connection between all that dissonance and provocation and the vernacular Aaron Copland (ignoring the early austere Copland or the late experimenter Copland). I now think he captured the intensity and spirit of that era's music, even if in conventional clothing. Although tame compared to say Cowell bashing forearms on the keyboard or Ornstein writing bold, outrageous, and noisy music, the piano reduction of El Salón México, of all things, illuminated the strength behind the pleasant facade, for example, in the slow section after the fast introduction or in the ending chord of the piece. From there, to my surprise, I have even started liking the melody.
CD available for $2.99 at Berkshire Record Outlet.