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George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Tactus play Gershwin

Nice work if you can get it
A foggy day
Love is here to stay
I’ll build Astaire way to heaven
Love walked in
By Strauss
Swanee
The man I love
Somebody loves me
They can’t take that away from me

Tactus String Quartet
No recording date or location
PAVANE ADW 7273 [33.11]

 

Experience Classicsonline

There has always been a vogue for string quartet arrangements. In the 1940s American Decca, for example, engaged elite performers to record 10" albums – hence the apparent incongruity of the Gordon Quartet recording Jerome Kern or the London recording Stephen Foster, the latter in spicy arrangements by the gifted ex-viola player, soon-to-be conductor Anthony Collins. So these Bill Thorp arrangements have a long and established pedigree and the Belgian Quartet Tactus have recorded ten of them on this modestly priced but exceptionally short CD.

Included are the verses – many such arrangements are only of the refrains and are limited as a result – and Thorp has decorated the melodies with little runs (A foggy day) or has quoted from other Gershwin songs; in By Strauss he quotes Rosenkavalier which the meagre sleeve notes call ingenuous but to me sounds arch; similarly Thorp ends a nice, rocking, thrumming and pizzicato launched Nice work if you can get it with an unnecessarily aggressive quotation of It Aint Necessarily so. An analogue, I suppose, to jazz musicians’ puerile use of quotations and equally nondescript. By some geographical alchemy the booklet claims that track seven is that well-known Gershwin standard Swansea. Regrettably it turns out to be less a paean of praise to the joys of rugby than more of the quotation game – both the New World Symphony <Sample 1> and Old Folks at Home are sewn into the melodic lining with rather more enjoyable results because Thorp’s level of subtlety is operating at a consistently higher level. Thorp uses divided lines and cello pizzicatos to galvanize the melodies, utilises the violins’ higher register, though never obtrusively so, and can give a suitably sprightly lick – Somebody loves me <sample 2> - when necessary.

Playing is calmly enjoyable though I can imagine less polished, more vibrato-laden and less polite performances paying bigger dividends. Awful playing time though, whatever the price.

Jonathan Woolf



 



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