Russian pianist Denis Matsuev has established himself as one of the most dynamic and virtuosic performers of his generation, and his program on this RCA album with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic is ideally suited to his extraordinary abilities. The pairing of Sergey Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor and George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is a natural one, particularly because of the works' shared post-romanticism (note Rachmaninov's influence on Gershwin's slow theme in the Rhapsody), as well as for the dazzling writing for the piano in both works. Of course, the challenge for Matsuev is to make his part appear effortless, and he succeeds so well in both performances that listeners may be a bit blasé about his playing, taking it in without really considering what knuckle-busters these pieces really are.
"…A lot of bang for the buck."
Jazz pianist Michel Camilo, working with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra under Ernest Martinez Izquierdo, attempts here to make something new out of George Gershwin's heavily recorded Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F – broadly speaking, he tries to tie these jazz-classical fusions more closely to their jazz roots. Given the fluency with which Gershwin moved between the worlds of classical music, jazz, and pop, the experiment would seem a worthwhile and interesting one, but the recording, at least for those with the usual ways of performing Gershwin in their ears, is likely to come off as neither fish nor fowl.
Freddy Kempf and Andrew Litton with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra here join forces to present a disc of works by George Gershwin. Rhapsody in Blue was originally arranged by Ferde Grofé for jazz band before being orchestrated for symphony orchestra. Here Kempf and the Bergen Philharmonic play this original version. Concerto in F was a commission for Gershwin to write a ‘proper’ piano concerto, but still takes the rhythms, melodic structures and bluesy harmonies of popular music.
The great musical border crosser of the twentieth century, George Gershwin excelled in the fields of concert music and popular song alike. The son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, he was born Jacob Gershvin in Brooklyn on September 26, 1898. His father ran a great variety of small businesses, and George, in the words of the New Grove Dictionary of Music, "excelled at street sports." He also studied the piano and was introduced to the European classics by his teacher, Charles Hambitzer…
Bernstein recorded Gershwin's "American in Paris" and "Rhapsody in Blue" in the late '50s with the same NY Philharmonic playing here. That LP (later transferred to CD) was superlative in every way. In this DVD, he conducts both works in the Royal Albert Hall in London, with the same orchestra as the LP. The results are the same.