DVD Concert Review "American Night"
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Highlights from Porgy and Bess
Willard White (Porgy); Cynthia
Haymon (Bess); Damon Evans (Sporting Life)Cynthia Clarey (Serena) and Marietta
Rhapsody in Blue with Wayne Marshall (piano)
Songs: Someone to Watch Over Me and I Got Rhythm - Marietta
Simpson and Cynthia Clarey with Wayne Marshall.
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
Candide Overture; Prelude, Fugue and Riffs.
Rundfunkchor, Berlin Conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
TDK Mediactive [85
minutes] EAN: 5 450270 001552.
You can obtain this from
Enter American Night in the search box and then select Berlin
Philharmonic - American Night (DVD) (1995)
This is another DVD recording of an open-air concert, in 1995, in a Berlin
Park, attended by a huge audience for an evening of light classics performed
by the Berlin Philharmonic. As in the Daniel Barenboim "Latin American Night"
concert which I reviewed on this site last month, the DVD digital 5.1 sound
is excellent, full bodied and well defined with first class pictures.
Rattle's Glyndebourne performances and recording of Gershwin's Porgy and
Bess are justly celebrated and he brings his superlative cast to this
concert. Willard White's oaken tones lend strength and dignity to the role
of Porgy. He is carefree and optimistic in 'I got plenty o'nuttin'; tender
in his duet with 'Bess, you is my woman now'; pained and vulnerable in 'Oh,
Bess, oh, where is my Bess?'; and fatally optimistic in the rousing final
aria of the opera 'Oh Lawd, I'm on my way.'
Cynthia Hayman is a honey voiced Bess warm and loving yet insecure and
vulnerable. Her lovely velvety soprano voice blends perfectly with Willard
White's in their duet and she is sweetly soothing in her lullaby, 'Summertime'
But it is Damon Evans as Sporting life who runs away with the show with his
powerful, individual larger-than-life renderings of 'It ain't necessarily
so' and 'There's a boat that's leavin' soon for New York' - what personality,
what projection, what magnetism!
Wayne Marshall gives a finely nuanced, articulate and thoughtful reading
of the Gershwin Rhapsody. But this is rather an uneven performance with the
Berlin players - especially the brass - often playing as though they were
in a Munich beer garden rather than in Greenwich Village; and the big tune
is spoilt by some untidy, fuzzy ensemble playing. The clarinet soloist, however,
is excellent. I would have preferred to have heard the Berlin players having
much more fun with this music. The same remarks must apply for Bernstein's
Candide Overture which receives a rather brisk performance and the lovely
central lyrical episode would have benefited from a more relaxed pace and
a warmer treatment. Bernstein's astringent Prelude, Fugue and Riffs fares
much better with its biting jazzy trumpet and trombone choruses echoed by
massed saxophones and a small instrumental grouping of bass, piano (Marshall
again) and clarinet.
Another highlight comes in the closing stages of the concert with two Gershwin
songs sung superbly by Cynthia Clarey and Marietta Simpson accompanied by
Wayne Marshall. Marietta Simpson especially shines in her rendering of 'Someone
to Watch Over Me' - this lady has a wonderful way of putting a song over
with a smile that just radiates warmth and sincerity and a voice, particularly
in its smoky lower register, to make your toes curl.