George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
A Crush on You
Mary Carewe (singer)
The Swonderful Orchestra
Arrangements, piano and direction by Philip Mayers
rec. b-sharp Studios, Berlin, 20-24 January, 2-4 May 2015
COVIELLO CLASSICS COV91606 [62.07]
After enduring excruciating moments dipping in and out of the television coverage of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, it was with considerable relief that I returned to the romantic sophistication of George and Ira Gershwin.
This collection is unusual with arrangements for string orchestra and often piano by the Swonderful Orchestra’s conductor, Philip Mayers. The Swonderful Orchestra is made up of players drawn from leading orchestras in Germany and elsewhere. As Mayers, himself, admits, these arrangements are well off the beaten track and some display a very different view of these classics. Unrepentant romantics insisting on standard renderings of these immortal songs are therefore warned. The adventurous may feel rewarded listening to different, occasionally startlingly different, interpretations.
Those of us with long memories might recall Audrey Hepburn cast with Fred Astaire in Paramount’s 1957 film, Funny Face with a plot entirely different from the original Broadway version. ‘How Long Has This Been Going On’ was originally from the Broadway show Rosalie. Hepburn's voice may not have been the best but how soulfully she projected that song in Funny Face - wonderful. Here the strings play in a dainty baroque style as Mary Carewe recalls how she disdained thoughts of love and kisses preferring academia, until she meets Mr Him and is then overwhelmed by that first kiss. “I could cry salty tears, where have I been all these years” she whispers ecstatically on her awakening to life – and the strings and piano share her enchantment.
I mention this song not only for the reason that it is one of my favourites but to speak of the more upbeat arrangements first. What might be made of Mayers’ treatment of ‘The Man I Love’? Thoughts and associations entered my mind of Ridley Scott’s 1987 film noire thriller Someone to Watch Over Me with that beguiling Gershwin music counterpointing the most horrific brutality. Mayers’ accompaniment in this case is dark and bleak prevailing against Carewe’s low-key optimism.
Mary Carewe has sung Gershwin before, notably on the year 2000 ASV recording ‘Tell Me the Truth About Love’ that included songs by Britten and Weill. She has an attractive timbre and delivery that she can adapt to enliven and enhance any song in any mood. She does not disappoint here.
I could go on and on covering every song on this album but I will restrict myself to just a few. Carewe is duskily seductive – “I never thought I could fall with such emotion” - in the opening song, fully reprised, ‘I’ve Got a Crush on You’, which is delivered against dreamy feline strings. She is deliciously naughty in ‘Do It Again’, “I have only just met you and I shouldn’t let you but oh, oh, oh just do it again.” The accompaniment is contrastingly prim and strictly classical. Another great favourite of mine, that rather sad and wistful ‘But Not For Me’ has another dreamy regretful accompaniment as Carewe sighs, “I was a fool to fall and get that way”. ‘For You, For Me, For Evermore’, has a delicious duet for piano and cello. The whole enterprise is merrily spun out with Gershwin’s tongue-in-cheek ‘By Strauss’ as Carewe cheekily castigates Gershwin, Berlin and Porter “drivel” preferring Johann – “When I want a melody lilting through the house, then I want Strauss …”
An unusual and often different view on 15 Gershwin classics. Try it.
I’ve Got a Crush on You (from Strike up the Band, 1927/30) [1.50]
Isn’t It A Pity? (from Pardon My English, 1933) [5.42]
Blah, Blah, Blah (from Delicious, 1931 film) [3.36]
But Not For Me (from Girl Crazy, 1930) [3.44]
They All Laughed (from Shall We Dance?, 1937 film) [2.22]
A Foggy Day (from A Damsel in Distress, 1937 film) [4.48]
How Long Has This Been Going On? (from Rosalie, 1928) [4.21]
Do It Again (from The French Doll, 1922) [2.29]
The Man I Love (from Lady Be Good, 1924) [6.06]
Love Walked In (from The Goldwyn Follies, 1938 film) [5.44]
For You, For Me, For Evermore (used in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, 1946 film) [4.33]
Embraceable You (from Girl Crazy, 1930) [3.33]
He Loves And She Loves (from Funny Face, 1927) [3.43]
Nice Work If You Can Get It (from A Damsel in Distress, 1937 film) [2.58]
By Strauss (from The Show is On - a revue from 1936) [3.02]