Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

George GERSHWIN Rhapsody in Blue; 2nd Rhapsody; Piano Concerto in F Howard Shelley (piano); Yan Pascal Tortelier conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra Chandos CHAN 9092

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The September 1998 edition of Classic CD carried a feature on Gershwin and the available recordings of Rhapsody in Blue are compared. The article's author, Jeremy Nicholas, considered this Chandos recording to be the finest available recording of the work, saying: "Shelley and Tortelier offer the most sumptuous and spirited version... a highly musical one and, one has to say, intelligent performance. Shelley can be as magisterial and poetic as he can be skittish and whimsical - the piano is beautifully recorded in an ideal balance between soloist and orchestra. Tortelier illuminates every detail in Grofé's (Gershwin's orchestrator) score." I heartily endorse Jeremy's opinion. The Second Rhapsody, which, of course, has its roots in the forgettable Hollywood musical Delicious is impressive too; however, on balance, I marginally prefer the Telarc version reviewed above. I was in no doubt about this version of the Piano Concerto though: spirited, colourful and vital. Howard Shelley demonstrates not only the inspiration, bravura and sensitivity associated with the conventional concert repertoire but also the essential élan and spontaneity required for such jazz-inspired music. Tortelier and the Philharmonia are first class too, entering into the spirit of the music with great joy, enthusiasm and commitment. Just listen to the glorious bluesy playing of the brass in the middle Adagio-Andante with so much free rubati against the most beautiful, silken strings. All this in Chandos's best sound. A real winner and highly recommended.

Ian Lace

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