Second Master's Recital, SFCM Hellman Hall, 1977
This concert marks the height of my interest in 20th century music, as witnessed by the program, which was entirely modern music, and all of it of the astringent, "difficult" variety. Hellman Hall, still a new venue at the time, had a brand-new 9' American Steinway, a piano which is notable more for its power than attractive tone; the thing was really pretty tinny. Nor was my tone particularly polished at the time -- I was all of 23 years old when I played this concert. However, I had worked very hard on this concert with my teacher, Nathan Schwartz, and it's very much to both of our credits that I consider parts of it to remain halfway tolerable. I will have to say that nowadays I have little in common with this steel-fingered chap. Back in those days I tended to come down with some really nasty illness right before a major recital, and this one was no exception; I was still struggling with a horrid case of the flu. But one rallies...there's no trace of illness in the performance. Modern digital restoration has really helped this cassette tape along; I was able to boost a missing low-frequency range, cut out an incredible amount of tape hiss, and most importantly remove a 60-cycle hum which plagued virtually every Hellman Hall recording, due to a noisy air conditioning system.
I was obliged to learn this one rather quickly due to having been ill prior to the concert. However, that doesn't show in the performance -- it's pretty clean and clear on the whole. When transferring the tape to digital, I found that I couldn't eradicate all of the notorious Hellman Hall hum; I got most of it, but there's a lowish element yet remaining.
I almost didn't include this one. For one thing, the recording technician made a mistake at the beginning of the first etude and left the volume turned almost all the way down, not turning it back up to normal until about 15 seconds into the etude. I've done what I can to extract the audio, but it's almost buried within tape sounds. But I'm also not all that happy with the performance, which is a slam-bang slugfest, even in the second and presumably more gentle etude. Admittedly the pieces are pretty hardcore percussionist bang-ups, but still I could have shown more class than this.
Copland's largest and most ambitious work for solo piano. Even at 23 years old I didn't attempt to play this one from memory; you can hear an occasional page turn during the performance. Typically it runs a bit speedy in the fast sections and tonal quality is definitely on the metallic side.