Double LP Stereo Edition, Limited to 496 Copies
180 Gram Reissue, Heavy Stock Jacket
The legacy of analysis, discussion and even controversy that for nearly a century has continued to envelop the music of George Gershwin, with its eclecticism and its amphibious nature, its mixture of classical and jazz, highbrow and lowbrow, is now re-presented and perhaps cleared up here once and for all before our eyes. An orchestra that's not merely classical, but crowned with classical glory, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, one of the oldest orchestras in the world, has made this recording of Gershwin played by Stefano Bollani, a pianist with a superb jazz background, and conducted by Riccardo Chailly - a champion of 20th Century composers.
The performance of the Concerto is the finest I have ever heard. Gershwin may have doffed his hat to Rachmaninov, Puccini and Ravel at various junctures in the score but this, as Chailly and jazz pianist Stefano Bollani are intent on reminding us, is an American Jazz Age concerto. Inhibitions are left backstage and, while all parties are alive to the smallest detail, there is an irreverence and spontaneity which capture the spirit of the work like no other. Applause, too, for the atmospheric solo trumpet (and the fourth horn's sforzandos!) in the slow movement. Catfish Row, Gershwin's own five-movement orchestral suite from Porgy and Bess (not to be confused with Robert Russell Bennett's Symphonic Suite), provides a bridge and welcome contrast between the Rhapsody and the Concerto, containing as it does some of Gershwin's darkest music.
Rhapsody in Blue opens the disc. It's a cracking account that inhabits the same world as the Concerto and is played in GrofÉ's original jazz-band version, from which the piece always benefits. Here again, Bollani's exuberance and panache are infectious - until he can't resist rewriting bars 243-75 and, more bizarrely, improvising the 26 bars after 12 minutes, 24 seconds in, in a style reminiscent of Bill Evans. If such anachronisms as Schnabel's cadenzas to Mozart's piano concertos don't bother you, then neither will Bollani's interpolations.... That said, there is no denying the merits of this fabulous disc superbly engineered by Philip Siney - and with the best cover shot of the year. - Gramophone, January 2010
1. Rhapsody In Blue
2. Catfish Row - Symphonic Suite
3. Good Mornin' Sistuh!
4. Concerto In F For Piano And Orchestra - Allegro
5. Adagio - Andante Con Moto
6. Allegro Agitato
7. Rialto Ripples