George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Overtures and Songs
A Damsel in Distress - Suite from the Film (1937) [5:57]
Girl Crazy - Overture (1930) [55:23]
Of Thee I Sing - Prelude (1931) [5:01]
Tip-Toes - Overture (1925) [4:49]
Primrose - Overture (1924) [5:44]
A Damsel in Distress - Stiff Upper Lip [8:28]
Oh, Kay - Overture (1926) [6:44]
Somebody Loves Me (George White Scandals of 1924) [3:01]
Boy Wanted (Primrose) [2:34]
Things Are looking up (A Damsel in Distress) [3:23]
Love Walked In (Goldwyn Follies) (1937) [3:09]
Love Is Here To Stay (Goldwyn Follies) [2:46]
Someone To Watch Over Me (Oh, Kay) [2:43]
But Not For Me (Girl Crazy) [2:56]
Summertime (Porgy and Bess) (1935) [2:42]
Nice Work If you Can Get It (A Damsel In Distress) [2:43]
By Strauss (The Show Is On) (1936) [2:51]
Embraceable You (Girl Crazy) [4:34]
I Got Rhythm (Girl Crazy) [3:33]
Kiri Te Kanawa (soprano)
New Princess Theatre Orchestra/John McGlinn
rec. 18-19 June 1986 (Overtures), 7-11 June 1986 (Songs), RCA Studios, New York. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 50999 6 06689 2 9 [79:06]
John McGlinn devoted his rather short life to resurrecting the authentic of the classic American musical. This meant searching for the original performing materials for the Preludes and Overtures to these shows, the original accompaniments to the songs and the performance practices that would put the music together in the way it would have been heard when first performed. Among the many discs he made were several of music by Gershwin, more than one with Kiri Te Kanawa. The disc we have here is a compilation of recordings from 1986, consisting of both orchestral and vocal pieces.
The first half of this recording consists mostly of preludes and overtures to Gershwin’s Broadway shows. With the original orchestrations and tempi in place they demonstrate why Gershwin was a great composer - his “Classical” music has all the directness of his show music while that same show music has an integration and cleverness far beyond the usual. This is especially evident in the four selections from the late score to the film “A Damsel in Distress”. The suite from this film contains an amazing variety of types of tunes, manipulated as only Gershwin could. “Stiff upper lip” is a funhouse sequence from the same film and is full of imagination with amazing references, even to Loony Tunes. Of equal interest is the Prelude to “Of Thee I Sing”, one of the composer’s political satires. This has a more than usually serious tone and one could half-mistake it for an opera.
John McGlinn applied the same assiduousness to researching authentic performance practice for the Gershwin songs. In a way this is even more important because the songs have been heard in so many variants - basically as many as there have been people to sing them [see review]. In presenting these versions he is ably assisted by Kiri Te Kanawa, whose love for this musical genre is well-known. To return to “A Damsel in Distress” we have two songs of great sophistication (“Things are Looking Up” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It). Dame Kiri is fully up to bringing out that sophistication. “Love Walked In” from the film “The Goldwyn Follies” is also consummately sung, although I was a little disappointed with her version of “Love Is Here To Stay“. Inevitably “I Got Rhythm” appeared, but Dame Kiri sings it straightforwardly, not strident, not boring.
The sound on this disc is early digital, but while somewhat shrill it’s amazing how well it lets the individual instruments come through. Dame Kiri sounds occasionally distant, but this is a small price to pay for the quality of her singing. The disc is a tribute to John McGlinn’s energy and ability. Since he died only last year (at the age of 55) it could also be considered a memorial. But there is nothing at all doleful about this music-making.
This is Gershwin as he was meant to sound, performed by artists who love him. As close as you’ll ever get to being on Broadway in the 1920s.