> BARBARA HENDRICKS It’s wonderful: Tribute to George GERSHWIN [CF]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Itís wonderful: Tribute to George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Sí wonderful
Embraceable you
Oh lady, be good
How long has this been going on?
Somebody loves me
The man I love
Love walked in
Fascinating rhythm
Iíve got a crush on you
I got rhythm
Porgy & Bess medley:
Overture (instrumental)
My manís gone now
Thereís a boat thatís leaving soon from New York (instrumental)
Porgy, Iís your woman now
It ainít necessarily so
I loves you
Iíve got plenty of nuttin (instrumental)
Oh Lawd, Iím on my way

Geoffrey Keezer (piano)
Ira Coleman (double-bass)
Ed Thigpen (drums)
Guildhall Strings
Paul Bateman (conductor)
Recorded at Abbey Road, Studio 1, London, May 2000
EMI CLASSICS 7243 5 570492 4 [72.48]

ĎNobody dislikes a Gershwin tuneí, says Steven Gilbert in his book about the composerís music. True, but it does depend on how itís presented, and Barbara Hendricks does not have the ideal voice so to do. It frankly sounds too trained and operatic, the text delivered in a mannered fashion. She is no Ethel Merman. The arrangements have been doctored by Geoffrey Keezer who has added string parts duly played with a sheen to their sound by the 16-strong Guildhall String Ensemble, a distinguished group not normally associated with this style but who do a pretty efficient job of it, nothing more. Of the ten songs which start the disc itís Fascinating Rhythm and I got rhythm, which Hendricks does best in foot-tapping renditions once sheís through the formulaic introduction.

The second half of the disc consists of a medley of tunes from Porgy and Bess, a serious operatic work which should suit Hendricks down to the ground, though her diction of the word ĎSummertimeí sounds like ĎSoomerthaymeí, and much of the rest of this song is as incomprehensible. Itís all too precious, the vowels all too modified out of any discernible shape, and the arrangements (an awful one of Bess, you is my woman now, introduced by a raucous anonymous saxophonist) crass. Opera singers really do have to take care singing in this style, because it is fair to say that Ďit ainít necessarily soí that they can.

Christopher Fifield

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