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Fourth of July fireworks have already started in my US town. Music crosses all borders and boundaries, but I'm curious which American composers and keyboard works have made a positive impact on you all. I am personally a fan of the contemporary composer Steve Reich (his Piano Phase has got me under a spell). I'm also a casual student of music history, and the earliest keyboard works I can find published in the US are Alexander Reinagle's "Philadelphia Sonatas", 1 of which I will link to below. My favorite all round US composer is Copland (Billy the Kid). Feel free to include jazz and ragtime in your answers, and Latin American composers too,though I'm mostly focused on classical music here in the US.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImEhQvsukJM
Ives Concord Sonata
Barber's Piano Concerto and piano sonata are among my favorite 20th century works.

I'm surprised that so few American pianists play them.
Lowell Liebermann is one of my favorite living composers. A lot of people know him for writing Gargoyles, but he has written so much more than that.
Scott Joplin's ragtime pieces. Spent a happy summer many years ago learning a number of them - Maple Leaf Rag, Gladiolous Rag, Pine Apple Rag, The Entertainer, Magnetic Rag, and Bethena, A Concert Waltz. Such fun to play and fits so well under the fingers too.
Originally Posted by iamandrew3
Fourth of July fireworks have already started in my US town. Music crosses all borders and boundaries, but I'm curious which American composers and keyboard works have made a positive impact on you all. I am personally a fan of the contemporary composer Steve Reich (his Piano Phase has got me under a spell). I'm also a casual student of music history, and the earliest keyboard works I can find published in the US are Alexander Reinagle's "Philadelphia Sonatas", 1 of which I will link to below. My favorite all round US composer is Copland (Billy the Kid). Feel free to include jazz and ragtime in your answers, and Latin American composers too,though I'm mostly focused on classical music here in the US.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImEhQvsukJM

I find it ironic that in the context of a thread asking about piano pieces by American composers, the Copland work you mention is one of his ballets. Copland wrote some amazing, wonderful, innovative piano works that are (thankfully) nothing like his popular ballets...the Passacaglia, the Fantasy, the Sonata, the Variations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1-vIw_M-Qg
I'll break it down into categories.

My favourite American composer of pedagogical pieces is William Gillock. I love teaching his pieces, heck, I love playing them myself.

My favourite American composer of "serious" "Classical" pieces is William Bolcom. I wish I had more time to work on Bolcom, and I wish his pieces would appear on diploma syllabi.

My favourite American composer of "popular" music is Scott Joplin, hands down.

Honourable mentions to George Gershiwn in both the serious and popular categories, and John Thompson and Edna Mae Burnam in the pedagogical category.
George Gershwin. He is my favorite American Composer. If I had to pick one piece as a favorite, it would be - Three Preludes for Piano.
Originally Posted by Music Me
George Gershwin. He is my favorite American Composer. If I had to pick one piece as a favorite, it would be - Three Preludes for Piano.
Gershwin at the Keyboard
I've gotten into Amy Beach recently. Her style changed so much when you compare early vs. late works.
'Aeolian harp' by Cowell, an encore that enchants every audience.
Another vote for Gershwin. The Rhapsody in Blue piano solo. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the “Second Rhapsody” is in my opinion his finest work ever.
I'll give the American Piano Sonata a special shout-out -- in addition to those mentioned (Barber, Ives, Copland), these others I consider quite significant:

Norman Dello Joio -- #3
Elliott Carter
Quincy Porter
Vincent Persichetti -- #3
Roger Sessions -- #2
George Walker -- #2
Elie Siegmeister --#1
Charles Griffes
Ross Lee Finney -- #3
Gail Kubik
Leo Sowerby
Leo Ornstein -- #4

As you can see, the list goes on and on. I can't honestly say I have a favorite composer, although I do consider the Barber to be the most considerable among the piano sonatas.
Tim - I literally was just in the process of making up a list myself, when I refreshed the topic and noticed three of the 10 pieces I had put down so far are also on your list: Dello-Joio 3, Griffes, Ornstein 4! Now I have to go listen to the ones on your list that I don't recognize since you clearly are a discerning music lover! wink
Love it, psyche23. I too spent 1 summer learning Scott Joplin, The Entertainer, Fig Leaf Rag, and Maple Leafe Rag, reading bar over bar braille. It was 1 of the great musical adventures of my life.
Great responses everyone! I did observe that most of your favorites are from the 20th century. From the cursory studying I've done of music history, I get the impression that early "classical music" in America is largely nonexistent because early music here was rooted in the church (Christian hymnity),and African spirituals, and not so much secular art music. Which is why I find the Reinagle sonatas significant, as they are from the founding era. But please enlighten me if I am wrong about all this.
Louis Moreau Gottschalk, whose mother was French Creole, shouldn't be forgotten. In fact, he's composed many piano pieces which are still played today, the most well-known probably being The Banjo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul113TK2hEw

His piano pieces are the first musical examples of American creole musical culture, a mix of African-American and European traditions. After a concert at the Salle Pleyel, Chopin remarked: "Give me your hand, my child; I predict that you will become the king of pianists." Liszt and Alkan, too, recognised Gottschalk's extreme talent.
Originally Posted by iamandrew3
Great responses everyone! I did observe that most of your favorites are from the 20th century. From the cursory studying I've done of music history, I get the impression that early "classical music" in America is largely nonexistent because early music here was rooted in the church (Christian hymnity),and African spirituals, and not so much secular art music. Which is why I find the Reinagle sonatas significant, as they are from the founding era. But please enlighten me if I am wrong about all this.

Well, i dont think anyone mentionned Edward MacDowell, who is a late 19th century composer. He wrote 4 piano sonatas which are not played very often.
Confrey: Three Little Oddities
Sidokar - Yes that was a sonata on my list that was not on Tim's sonata list: MacDowell's "Keltic" sonata (the fourth). All four are good; I just like that one best.

bennevis - I used to play Gottschalk's "The Banjo". It's not as hard as it sounds, and great fun to play. I saw Eugene List play it in-person once (he was a big champion of Gottschalk's works) in a concert that also included one of Gottschalk's orchestral works....can't recall for sure, but prob. the Tarentelle, along with List -- I remember speaking with List in the reception afterwards about how the tempo was slower than on his LP of the piece, and he said yes he had to be cautious because of the ability of the local orchestra he was playing with. But then he really ripped into The Banjo at the end and played it at breakneck speed at the end.
My favourite American composer is Ives.
David Thomas Roberts
I thought I have never played any 'pieces' by an American composer, but just now I remembered I did play one. It's Round Midnight by Cootie Williams and Thelonious Monk (Moderately slow in 2, 6 pages, 96 measures, WB Deluxe Edition, 1944, 1982, don't know who arranged this particular version) and I really really liked it too.
There are so many American composers who wrote interesting piano works...here are a few that I like, in no particular order:

Norman Dello Joio: Piano Sonata no. 3
Charles Griffes: Sonata, The White Peacock, Scherzo
Abram Chasins: Rush Hour in Hong Kong
Edward MacDowell: Sonata no. 4 "Keltic"
Leonard Pennario: Midnight on the Cliffs
Samuel Barber: Nocturne (Homage to John Field) op.33
Leo Ornstein: Piano Sonata no. 4
Philip Glass: Metamorphosis
I'm not sure I've heard many piano pieces by American composers besides Gershwin (I don't like him) and Glass (sounds almost annoying to me). OTOH I like American symphonists such as Howard Hanson, Walter Piston, Roy Harris, William Schuman, David Diamond.
Everything I hear by Florence Price continues to impress me. She has a piano sonata and one-movement concerto that’s fantastic.

I also obsess over Samuel Barber’s piano concerto.

EDIT: Rachmaninoff became a USA citizen grin
Been learning Florence Price's piano sonata and am in love with it - it's only been recorded a handful of times, but it's a fabulous piece, and as I'm playing with the interpretation I'm finding a lot of interesting possibilities. She also has a fabulous piano concerto (labeled one movement, but has two distinct, pretty much full pauses, so feels pretty much like a short 3-movement concerto).

William Grant Still wasn't a pianist, but he's got some really good piano music - Seven Traceries is in my lineup, though I haven't started working on it yet.

Scott Joplin was also the first composer I got really interested in - the only album I ever recorded was a Joplin album. I always felt there's way more to his piano pieces than most performances manage to capture, and that his intentions leaned more classical than jazz.

I've also always adored Barber, but never got around to playing his music - I love his sonata but I don't often have time for large-scale works like that (my main gig isn't classical piano).

As a theater music director, I also have to plug Sondheim, Adam Guettel, and Jason Robert Brown, whose piano parts are a blast.

On a totally different end of the spectrum, I occasionally like reading through Revolutionary-era piano pieces. They're all pretty much hot garbage, but they're entertaining, if only because it's a subcategory of American music that's gone (probably rightfully) largely unrecorded. Most of the Revolutionary-era sonatas are part of the same military-sonata genre that Beethoven's infamously-bad "Wellington's Victory" comes from. They're all similarly uninteresting.
I should never forget about popular song writer Stephen Collins Foster. I love putting his songs to piano.
My favorite composer from America, and possibly of all, is Edward MacDowell. His second piano concerto in D minor (Op. 23) and his Witches' Dance (Op. 17, No. 2) are both excellent pieces that in my (lowly) opinion, should be standard again. (They were both standard repertoire pieces until World War II)

I actually have a copy of a book about MacDowell's life at home, a biography if you well, written by E. Douglas Bomberger. From what I understood, MacDowell was against the idea of "nationalism" in music and despised being called the "first great American composer", because he was simply out to write great music. MacDowell constantly called for "internationalism" in music, rather than "nationalism", calling the latter nonsense.

He was more of an American Grieg than anything else - he even exchanged a few letters with Grieg for that matter. The Third Piano Sonata "Norse" (Op. 57) is dedicated to Grieg.

I'm a huge fan of MacDowell.
Originally Posted by iaintagreatpianist
[...] MacDowell was against the idea of "nationalism" in music and despised being called the "first great American composer", because he was simply out to write great music. MacDowell constantly called for "internationalism" in music, rather than "nationalism", calling the latter nonsense.

He was more of an American Grieg than anything else - he even exchanged a few letters with Grieg for that matter. The Third Piano Sonata "Norse" (Op. 57) is dedicated to Grieg.
[...]

That's an interesting contradiction - for lack of a more appropriate word - given that there was hardly a more "national" composer than Edvard Grieg. He was even the founder of the Norwegian national school of music.

So if, as you say, MacDowell was an "American Grieg," was he a nationalist composer in spite of himself?

Regards,
This topic has got me to thinking about some of the music in my collection which I never got around to picking out on the piano. I just played through one of the Poems after Omar Khayyam by Arthur Foote, which was really nice.

I have played through some of John Alden Carpenter's music, which is worthwhile.

I like Cowell's music better than Ives', but there is a lot of it that has specific requirements for one's body that I do not have.

Antheil wrote a lot of different music, some of which is better than others. I tried picking through his 4th sonata, which looked fun. Who can resist a suite with movements Practice Hours Are Long, In Spain with Mr. Hemingway, and Someday We'll Like Stravinsky?

I really should go through more of the children's music. There are suites by Roy Harris and Norman Della Joio, maybe others. Everyone should have the Masters of our Day collection from Fischer, with music by Copland, Cowell, Isadore Freed, Howard Hanson, Darius Milhaud, Douglas Moore, Roger Sessions, Deems Taylor, Randall Thompson, and Virgil Thomson.

Zez Confrey's music is a lot like Leroy Anderson, bridging between popular and classical. Confrey's music is mostly piano, while there are piano reductions of Anderson's, and they are both available as fairly complete editions.
Lol Bruce, we'd all be homeless if not for our ivory towers! Iaintagreatpianist is a young punk I'm sure, and so am I!
Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by iaintagreatpianist
[...] MacDowell was against the idea of "nationalism" in music and despised being called the "first great American composer", because he was simply out to write great music. MacDowell constantly called for "internationalism" in music, rather than "nationalism", calling the latter nonsense.

He was more of an American Grieg than anything else - he even exchanged a few letters with Grieg for that matter. The Third Piano Sonata "Norse" (Op. 57) is dedicated to Grieg.
[...]

That's an interesting contradiction - for lack of a more appropriate word - given that there was hardly a more "national" composer than Edvard Grieg. He was even the founder of the Norwegian national school of music.

So if, as you say, MacDowell was an "American Grieg," was he a nationalist composer in spite of himself?

Regards,
No, I don't think so. When I call MacDowell an "American Grieg" I'm referring to his output in music being astonishingly similar to Grieg.

Both composers contributed a large amount of excellent miniatures. Both of them also wrote many large pieces, but in regards to well-known large pieces by either composer, the only thing that'll pop in your mind is a Piano Concerto.

(Grieg only finished one piano concerto, the one in A minor, although he tried to write a second in B minor; MacDowell is better known for his Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor, rather than his Piano Concerto No. 1 in A minor.)

MacDowell's only real "nationalist" piece that comes to mind is his "Indian" Suite, Op. 48, which uses alot of Native American melodies. This piece may have been composed as a response to Dvorak, who said that American composers should stop trying to copy Europe, and use African-American melodies.

So no, I don't think MacDowell was truly a nationalist composer in spite of being referred to as an "American Grieg" by myself (and by André Watts for that matter, I remember him saying that in a YouTube lecture posted by Nashville Symphony).

MacDowell was an American composer, but he was fully embracing the Romanticism of Europe, rather than the sounds of America.
Just checked out his Norse Sonata. Pretty good. Many twists and turns emotionally in a relatively short piece.
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