Based on Langston Hughes’ 1935 poem Let America Be America Again, an ode to the American dream, the new album by classical pianist Lara Downes is a collection of reimagined solo works by composers from – you guessed it – the good ol’ US of A. But this is no simple celebration of a nation. “I was planning an entirely different recording project. And the shootings in Charleston happened,” Downes says, referring to the killing of nine people in a South Carolina church, in June 2015. “This music is a tribute to the generations of Americans who dream the impossible: black and white, men and women, immigrants and pioneers. It tells the story of their journeys, their loves and longings, their hardships and their hopes.” The album is centred on icon of American music George Gershwin and Downes tackles I Loves You Porgy, taken from the composer’s 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. Downes’ playing is also beautiful and touching on tracks by other composers – Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin (Art Tatum’s arrangement of Blue Skies) and Amy Beach are all here – and the message of hope running throughout America Again is a triumph of both popular and concert music.