SOL 001  
American Piano Music
Bernstein - Barber - Gershwin
Irène and Yvonne Bugod


American Piano Music, Irène & Yvonne Bugod


Leonard BERNSTEIN, Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" (1957), arranged for two pianos by John Musto

Samuel BARBER, Souvenirs op. 28 (1952), arranged for two pianos by by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale

  1. Waltz
2. Schottische
3. Pas de deux
4. Two-Step
5. Hesitation-Tango
6. Galop

George GERSHWIN, Rhapsody in Blue (1924), original version for two pianos

Identical twins Irène and Yvonne Bugod have taken every step of their careers together. Born in Bucharest, where they began their piano studies, they went on to the Conservatoire Royal in Brussels, joining the piano class of Jenny Solheid and the chamber music class of Louis Poulet, and received the Superior Diploma in both disciplines. They furthered their studies with Marguerite David as well as with Yvonne Lefébure, Noël Lee, Jörg Demus and Theodor Guschlbauer.
A permanent piano duo, their repertoire includes the great works for two pianos and piano, four hands. They have extended this to include many little-known original compositions, especially from the first half of the 20th century, many of which are yet to be recorded. The Bugods have given concerts and made radio and CD recordings in Belgium, France, and The Netherlands, as well as in Germany, Hungary and Israel.

It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that American music was ready to disengage itself from its European roots. Charles Ives' non-conformism, the influence of jazz and Latin-American music, followed by technological advances - notably in the film industry - were the chief motors of this development. It was the desire of composers to write more widely accessible music that was to assure the great success of American composition, of which the pieces on the present recording are among the most popular.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) appreciated for many years that a form of authentic musical theatre could be developed from what had been known as musical comedy. The new form was born in 1957 with the appearance of West Side Story, which took Broadway by storm. European theatrical elements were fused with American to become a synthesis lying somewhere between opera and musical comedy. Bernstein borrowed complex vocal ensembles, the application of music as the motor of the action, leitmotifs and development techniques from the European tradition. From America he added the sounds and characteristic figures and fluidity of jazz and Latin-American music. Above all, he adapted a motion-based approach to composing for the theatre, to be found in concentrated form in the Symphonic Dances.
The dances are couched in a dramatic context founded not so much on the playing out of scenic action as on a purely musical logic, developed from the combination and metamorphosis of a relatively few thematic ideas, much as in a symphony. In this sense they are truly "symphonic", and constitute an autonomous musical oeuvre.

Of all 20th-century American composers, Samuel Barber (1910-1981) kept the greatest distance from experimental currents, allowing himself to maintain an expressive and lyrical style, and adopt a consistently tonal approach to all his works. He described the circumstances surrounding the composition of his Souvenirs, op. 28 in these terms: "In 1952 I wrote this suite of piano duets to play with a friend. Later I orchestrated it for concert use and several ballet companies have danced it, to various choreographies. Had I myself been choreographer I might have imagined a divertissement in a setting reminiscent of the Palm Court of the Hotel Plaza in New York; the year about 1914, epoch of the first tangos. Souvenirs - remembered with affection, not in irony or with tongue in cheek, but in amused tenderness."
Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale's own concert version for two pianos is practically identical with Barber's original version for piano, four hands.

Despite receiving only limited formal musical training, George Gershwin (1898-1937) developed the ambition to become a serious composer relatively young. Rhapsody in Blue, commissioned by Paul Whiteman to be "An Experiment in Modern Music", for the first "official" concert of symphonic jazz in America, is entirely in keeping with the concept of the project. Invited to write a "jazz concerto", Gershwin proposed instead a freestyle rhapsody, in the manner of Lizst's, but in the spirit of jazz. The manuscript calls explicitly for "jazz band and piano".
The version for two pianos is Gershwin's original. The first version for jazz band, written in New York in 1924, and the final version for full symphony orchestra, were both created by Whiteman's usual arranger, Ferde Grofe.

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