Copland's Piano Fantasy, as the composer has admitted in Copland since 1943 (St Martin's Press, New York : 1989), by the composer and Vivian Perlis, is not an easy piece to bring off in performance. Many changes of texture have to be sustained for nearly half an hour, with a cumulative sense of architecture. In this hard-hitting Copland, the piano itself is a vital factor. Some instruments, and some recorded ones, can hardly stand the strain : the tone becomes crude and the tuning is soon affected. From this point of view Charles Fierro is lucky. His instrument and his recorded sound are capable of the requisite declamatory clangor as well as the mystical intensity of a pianissimo especially haunting after loud sounds. However, from the opening bars, it is clear that Fierro is not going to be as precise rhythmically as he should be. Leo Smit, on the deleted two-LP set from CBS of Copland's ''Complete Piano Music'' (not complete, actually), was better from this point of view. Fierro's editors have occasionally let him down — awkward edit on page 39 of the score, an F-Sharp and three beats left out on page 41, a beat lost on page 46. Sometimes, as in the final climax, Fierro jumps the gun. Copland marks it ''very slow and expressive'', in effect wondrously transcendental, and there should be no hurry. But these may be details, the letter rather than the spirit. The fast music, in varied metres is well controlled; everything dances; the bluesy bits sing.
Fierro, by comparison, is completely reliable in the other works. The early Passacaglia, stylistically rather insecure with its echoes of Faure (teacher of Copland's teacher, Boulanger) is as convincing as it can be. The last of Copland's large piano landmarks, Night Thoughts — a 1972 homage to Ives — is thoroughly atmospheric and completely successful. The carefully modulated transitions between different types of material are all held together melodically.
The Piano Variations has become a classic of the tough American sound, described variously with recourse to rocks and the Manhattan skyline. Both Fierro and, for comparison, David Allen Wehr on Chandos know their own tradition. This playing is technically far more efficient than the composer himself and both recordings overcome the problems of capturing this type of piano sound. Wehr is very precise, punchy and lyrical too. So is Fierro this time, whose recorded sound I slightly prefer. Music like this seems to have waited for resilient modern pianos and CD to make a literally resounding impression.'Peter Dickinson
Source : http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/copland-piano-works
1 Piano Fantasy 28:26
2 Passacaglia 6:42
3 Night Thoughts (Homage to Ives) 6:47
4 Piano Variations 9:36
Charles Fierro - p
Recorded 1976 ?