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It is very hard for me not to enjoy a Gershwin recording, I must say. The music is just so enjoyable, irresistable and charming. And I must say that this excellent Levine recording has become my 'go-to' recording, for each piece excerpt perhaps his Rhapsody in Blue.
It is the jazz band version that is included, and for me personally this lacks a bit of the warmth and poetry that the well known orchestral version gives us. The gorgeous lyrical theme for example I think lacks a bit of romance and space in this performance. However, it is still a great performance, and I was delighted at the fluent display of pianism Levine gave us.
Having said this, I have no complaints whatsoever for any of the other performances. The Cuban Overture is given a thrilling performance full of jolity and exotic flair. Gershwin's growing rhythmical complexity is excellent displayed through the great balance, allowing all percussion to shine! The Catfish Row Suite I definitely prefer to the Symphonic Picture from Porgy and Bess. Not only does it make more sense in terms of the storyline, but also musically. The orchestration is more orginal to the opera and far more enjoyable overall. I love the prominence of the mandolin in "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin", which is often not heard enough in other performances. And what lush strings in "Bess, You Is My Woman Now". So romantic and charming!! Will stay in your mind for ages and will draw you back for thousands of listenings, guarenteed! "Oh, Lawd, I'm on My Way" is particularly uplifting here as well, what a fantastic orchestra, really taking the chance to shine! 'An American in Paris' really is a favourite of mine, and it is given a particularly thrilling, jazzy and brilliant performance here. I mention 'jazzy' and this is definitely the performance I would relate to that word most, just listen to the fantastic bassoon glissandi before the introduction of the lyrical theme, and the prominence of the saxophones for example! Such enthusiasm from the orchestra, and such a joy to listen to.
I would recommend this plus getting a Bernstein Gershwin recording too for an extra lush Rhapsody in Blue. An extremely uplifting recording overall and one I return to regularly!
EXCELLENT AMERICAN IN PARIS, which is my sole reason for buying this CD, as I already have Rhapsody in Blue. I think it's an excellent performance of AMERICAN IN PARIS as it's not too classical and stodgy, if you know what I mean, close to its jazz roots. I do prefer other perfrmances of Rhapsody in Blue, hence 4 stars and not 5, AMERICAN IN PARIS is 5 stars on its own. For better Rhapsody in Blues, try the 2 historical ones on 78 rpm, with Paul Whiteman, the first pre electric one is the best ever performance, the later electric one, has better sound but the orchestra is too classical and overblown and has lost its fresh jazz roots, you can get these free on youtube, ofcourse the sound quality is diabolical, they are 90 years old, have one on a 12" 78. My fave on average, is from piano roll and with a reduced orchestra accompanying your actual "Gerschwin" at the piano, using an original score before it grew too big. See ASIN: B0001ENYGC and my review, this is as close as possible to how it would have sounded in the 1920's when first performed. I can thoroughly recommend all of the above.
This very nice selection of works by George Gershwin is (as you might expect) played superbly by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under James Levine. Worthy of particular mention is the way these are all treated as serious orchestral works, rather than the lighter fare that they are sometimes drawn as.
The DG sound is superb, and the album would serve either as an introduction to these modern classics or an addition to a collection that includes some of the many other versions available.
I bought this predominantly for the American in Paris recording which is a very lively recording, it has a promient swing beat and is great fun to listen to. For anyone who loves more jazzy type music this would be a good buy. I heard it on classic FM and bought it straight away and it make me smile everytime.
5 mins into playing, you know you have a top quality disc both in performance & acoustic . Levine/CSO 1993 presents a sense of ' excitement ' , ' modern ' , ......... For the first time, the Cuban Overture sounds good to the ear . Understand ? When bad sounds good, it is really good .