George Balanchine conceived a ballet using some of George and
Ira Gershwin’s most popular songs, as listed in the heading of
this review. These were arranged by Hershy Kay who had orchestrated
Candide and On the Town for Leonard Bernstein. Kay’s
orchestral treatment made extended use of Gershwin’s own keyboard
versions of the songs. Balanchine wrote, “George’s music is so
natural for dancing … He spoke often to me about wanting to write
for the ballet …’ Balanchine’s ballet, Who Cares, was first
performed by the New York Ballet on 5 February 1970. Lee conducts
a vivacious performance playing to the emotions of each song.
Pianist, Viv McLean is a spirited and enthusiastic jazz soloist.
Note: listeners must remember that these are arrangements and
as such each will be appreciated or not, according to individual
will confess to a long-time admiration of Robert Russell Bennett’s
wonderful symphonic arrangement of hit numbers from Gershwin’s
masterpiece, Porgy and Bess include: Summertime;
It Ain’t Necessarily So; Oh Lord I’m On My Way;
Boat Leaving Soon For New York; I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’
and Bess, You Is My Woman Now. I will always
remember with great affection the vitality of the treasured
1975 John Pritchard recording with the London Philharmonic
Orchestra. Another recommended recording is that by Eugene
Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra on Sony (see review).
This new recording has a lot going for it too: evocative,
slyly witty, and sweetly sentimental. The playing is so full
of élan you can visualize the RPO having tremendous fun.
made his own orchestral précis of his Porgy and Bess
music, entitled Catfish Row. You can hear this
on the recommended 1997 recording on RCA (see review).
witty and jauntily evocative Promenade (Walking
the Dog) underscored the scene in Shall We Dance
when Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are walking the dog on
the liner deck. This little gem was probably Gershwin’s very
last instrumental composition. Lee realises the scene’s quirky,
Cuban Overture was the result of a holiday Gershwin
took in Havana in 1932 ‘two hysterical weeks, where no sleep
was had’. The composer was fascinated by the street and club
music. He brought back many colourful instruments including:
bongos, maracas, claves and a gourd. He also took the opportunity
to study the music of Ignacio Piñeiro. The result was this
Cuban Overture described as an orchestral Rumba with
a score that instructed that the exotic instruments were to
be used and placed in the front of the orchestra. Baltimore
leads the RPO in a colourful, sultry performance although
it lacks something of the exhilaration of Previn’s celebrated
new RPO recording faces a lot of competition but shows up
very well both in terms of performance and sound.