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George GERSHWIN (1898 - 1937)
Rhapsody in Blue (1924) [16.17]
Pasquale Cardilo, clarinet
Recorded 13 May 1959
Piano Concerto in F (1925) [28.53]
Earl Wild, piano
Recorded 17 May 1961
An American in Paris (1928) [16.37]
Recorded 14 May 1959
Variations on I Got Rhythm (1933) [7.59]
Cuban Overture (1932) [9.20]
Recorded 18 May 1961
Boston "Pops" Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler
Recorded in 3.0 Stereo. Remastered in the DSD System by Soundmirror, Inc.
Notes in English. Technical notes in Deutsch and Français. ADD
Hybrid SACD playable on all CD players

BMG-RCA 828766 1393-2 [79.22]

Comparison Recordings of Rhapsody in Blue:

Gershwin, piano; Michael Tilson Thomas conducting [ADD] CBS/Sony MK 42516
Leonid Hambro, piano; Gershon Kingsley, synthesiser Avco LP AV-11004-598
Oscar Levant, piano; Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia SO [1945 mono ADD] Sony MPK 47681

In 1905, before the invention of sirens, my grandfather William Nickerson played bugle on a hook and ladder truck for the Seattle, Washington, City Fire Department when he couldnít get paid for playing in a band. Truth is by that time traditional Sunday-in-the-park band music was already something of an anachronism in America, although Nickersonís band did distinguish itself marching in the Bellingham, Washington, City parade in 1913. His nephew, my uncle, Dick Arant made good money playing trumpet for the Dorseys and Paul Whiteman in their big jazz bands during the ítwenties and íthirties. Big band jazz dance music was the raunchy music of my parentsí generation and George Gershwin, the "man who made jazz respectable," was its high priest. Ironically, he was credited with being "...the link between the jazz camp and the intellectuals..." when today it is white-haired intellectuals who are the "jazz camp," who keep the corpse of jazz barely alive with corporate and government subsidies in an age much more excited by world music and rap. But in the mid-20th century so much did big band jazz come to represent "America" that it was only necessary for Hindemith to introduce a few notes of jazz trumpet into his 1943 Symphonic Metamorphosis to symbolise the victory of the American army (among others, of course) over the Nazis.

The story told me by a friend of a friendís mother is that she met Gershwin at a party in Hollywood. They got to talking, and Gershwin reportedly said, "Iíve written a lot of really trashy music, but Iíve made a lot of money, and now Iím going to retire and write something really good." Six months later he was, tragically for all of us, dead of brain cancer at the age of 39.

Gershwinís instrumental masterpiece is the brief Rhapsody in Blue, written first for solo piano (not by Gershwin, who reportedly could neither read nor write music notation) then orchestrated in several versions by its commissioner, band leader Paul Whiteman. The work is a brief and effective encyclopaedic showcase for the rhythmic and instrumental trademarks of the "jazz" style. Fiedlerís performance of the arrangement for symphony orchestra is one of the most effective. Pianist Wild played the work at least fifty times with Whitemanís band and by the time of this 1959 recording his fingers had lost none of their firm, agile grasp of the music. Gershwin himself recorded the solo piano version on a piano roll, and therein hangs the tale of the first of the referenced alternative recordings above. By individually blocking out those notes on the piano roll that represented the accompaniment, Gershwin was able forty years after his death to be made to "play" the piano solo part in the Michael Tilson Thomas recording of what is at least the fastest and probably the most effective modern sound recording of the jazz band version, a four channel master which should appear on disk some day as a surround sound SACD.

By means of intensive lobbying in Congress, the Gershwin copyright owners have been able to get the American copyrights on Gershwinís music, which would normally all have expired before 1993, extended to 2013. Hopefully after 2013 (2009 in Europe) this recording can be sold again; in the meantime, drop by my house anytime and Iíll be happy to play the AVCO recording for you.

The Concerto in F, considered to be too classical by most of Gershwinís pop music contemporaries today sounds less adventuresome than the Ravel Concerto in g written five years later. Itís a fine classically structured work and is not played nearly often enough. The Levant/Ormandy recordings having been popular and in print continuously for over sixty years still have virtues to recommend them to serious collectors. Levant appears in person along with Gene Kelly in the 1953 MGM film "American in Paris" which features the full music to an exotic cinematic fantasy of the ballet as the finale.

Arthur Fiedler (1894-1979) "the best selling conductor in history" began as a violinist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1915. He founded first the Boston Sinfonietta, and later organised concerts which became the Boston "Pops" summer season which he conducted for fifty years. Fiedler was in every way a qualified and conscientious musician and never lowered his musical standards for cheap effect. Many if not most of his recordings stand beside, sometimes slightly ahead of, those by conductors of more serious reputation. He is reported to be the only conductor to have made recordings in all known formats ó his first recordings were on wax cylinders, and just before his death he recorded the orchestra in digital sound.

To complete the catalogue of my personal involvement in this music, my high school classmate Max Hobart was playing in the second violins in this recording.

As in all these recent RCA/BMG SACDs of classic tapes, the sound is simply stupendous, wide range, low distortion, with all the excitement of being there. Most of these qualities are clearly audible even in the CD tracks of the hybrid disk. Even if you own a previous CD issue of this music, you will enjoy noticeably clearer sound on your CD player with the promise of even better sound when you upgrade to an SACD player.

In case you canít figure out how to get the program booklet out of the jewelcase without tearing it to pieces, I will be delighted to share the secret with you. For full instructions, send one US dollar (cash only; no checks, please) and a self addressed stamped envelope to PO Box 124, Notus, ID 83656 USA.

Paul Shoemaker

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