batteredhaggis

Classical Club #16 - George Gershwin piano works

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Super Wammer

I couldn't decide whether to propose Porgy and Bess, which I love, or this. Of course Rhapsody in Blue is known to many and very accessible, but I wanted something a little upbeat and infectious!

Composed in 1924, it established Gershwin's signature style and was revolutionary in blending elements of classical music with jazz. It's been described variously as a jazz concerto, and a 'syncopated tone poem'.

It doesn't need played often but it still puts a grin on my face years after first hearing it at the Festival Hall aged about 10. I cannot remember who was playing that day, but this performance on LP has been in my collection since my teens. While there are several good performances on record, Earl Wild's exuberance still enthralls. His pianistic control is marvellous, and while the overall interpretation may not be the most subtle, it has real charm. It's also a great recording with pace and voluptuousness (from the RCA Living Stereo series, made at Symphony Hall, Boston between 1959 and 1961). It's available on Hybrid SACD, which sounds very good. There may be a reissue available on vinyl too. The balance between pianist and Arthur Fiedler's excellent orchestra is about right. I have heard that the CD is not very good sounding, but don't own it, so buyer beware.

The other works on the disc (Concerto in F, An American in Paris, Variations and Cuban Overture) are all solid and entertaining - far from mere fillers.

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Edited by Bazzer
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Moderator

The first two tracks on Spotify :

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Super Wammer

Thanks for the link Barry. Also on Tidal, but I cannot make the embed code work :oops:

The LP only has Rhapsody and American in Paris, which is what seems available to stream. The other material is on the various CD releases.

Edited by batteredhaggis

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Moderator

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After university I didn't know what to do next, so I worked in the classical department in HMV Oxford Street for a year - back in the 2000s, when HMV still had a credible classical department.

I have, as a consequence, heard Rhapsody in Blue so many times that it is (for me) pretty much worn out 🙁

However, the Concerto and Cuban Overture still hit the spot 😊

Gershwin was a very fine composer. I have the Aeolian Duo-Art piano roll of his own interpretation of the Rhapsody in Blue, including accompaniment. I think that I will get it out tomorrow and give our pianola some exercise. A different kind of hi-fi!

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Super Wammer
8 minutes ago, Salopian said:

I think that I will get it out tomorrow and give our pianola some exercise. A different kind of hi-fi!

Splendid post, and welcome to the Wam Nick. I used to buy many LPs in there - you could shut the glass door and the racket of the main shop was suddenly cut. I can understand your feeling about RiB - for me it was Alanis Morrisette working in a similarly hallowed environment, only selling fine wine ;-)

I wonder if you are the only wammer with a pianola!

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15 minutes ago, batteredhaggis said:

I wonder if you are the only wammer with a pianola!

I hope not... most people dismiss the pianola as a mere box producing only mechanical music. It's a bit more complicated than that!

Surprising statistic: in the 1920s, 75% of all the pianos in American households wre pianolas. Mine, given the right roll, allows the interpretation to be in my hands - it just supplies the piano technique. I provide the rubato and attack. And get some exercise 😊

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Super Wammer

Thank you Chris. I felt that I reacted in a rather melancholy way to your beautiful choice of Bach last time and I didn't want to spoil the Classical Club, which seems a lovely thing.

Next time it might be Sturm und Drang - who knows?

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On 12/04/2018 at 08:07, chris217 said:

Like Nick, I agree that he was a fine composer. As Ravel said when Gershwin applied to study classical composition with him: "Why become a second-rate Ravel when you're already a first-rate Gershwin?"

Great comment!  I am sure Gershwin would still have benefited.  He was one of the great melodists  (spelling?  I have turned down the auto-correct suggestion of 'Methodist')

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