George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue
Leonard Bernstein piano and conductor of Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
An American in Paris
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Piano Concerto in F
André Previn piano and conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Porgy and Bess Suite
James Levine conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Rhapsody No. 2
Variations on I Got Rhythm
Werner Haas (piano) and the Orchestre National de l'Opera de Monte Carlo
conducted by Edo De Waart
Gil Shaham (violin) and André Previn (piano)
Five Song Arrangements
André Previn (piano) and David Finck (double bass)
DG PANORAMA 2 CDs 469 139-2
There are, of course, many, many rival recordings of the main Gershwin recordings
on this double album - and many of these are available on bargain labels.
It is unfortunate that DG and Philips have fared relatively poorly in comparison
to the competition when it comes to the music of Gershwin for a glance at
publications like Gramophone's Classical Good CD Guide shows that
they recommend only a few of their releases.
Listening to all these performances I have to say that I can think of better
versions in practically every case. CD1 opens with a nice cheeky, gritty
performance of the Rhapsody in Blue with Leonard Bernstein
as pianist and conducting The Los Angeles Philharmonic. But his Sony recording
in the same dual role with the New York Philharmonic has more vivacity and
polish; and there are excellent recordings of the Rhapsody on Virgin
(Wayne Marshall) and Chandos (Howard Shelley).
Again, as both soloist and conductor, André Previn offers a much fresher,
more vital reading of the Piano Concerto on EMI (recently released
in their Great Recordings of the Century series).
Ozawa's An American in Paris has verve and colour but it is
a rather noisy account and I prefer the better characterisations and romance
of rival versions - for instance that of Leonard Bernstein on Sony
Levine's Cuban Overture is quite colourful but there are better
versions and there are certainly better versions than his lack-lustre
Porgy and Bess (Catfish Row) Suite with his final "Oh
Lawd, I'm on my way' music sounding like some awful dirge.
Werner Haas's reading of the "I Got Rhythm" Variations has
more panache but I was not entirely convinced by his Rhapsody No. 2
- again there are more vivacious readings.
The most interesting items in this collection are the 3 Preludes,
arranged by Heifetz and played with dextrous panache by Gil Shaham accompanied
by Previn and Previn's piano version of 5 Song arrangements in which
he is joined by David Finck on double bass to present mellow - and a trifle
careful - accounts of: 'A Foggy Day', 'Embraceable You', 'Someone to Watch
Over Me'; 'Oh, Lady Be Good' and 'The Man I Love'.
I recommend readers to visit our companion Film Music on the Web site. There
they will find many reviews of attractive
Gershwin collections in the
months of 1998, the year of Gershwin's birth centenary.