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Manhattan Intermezzo / Biegel, Brown University Orchestra

Release Date: 01/08/2016 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8573490   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George GershwinNeil SedakaEdward "Duke" EllingtonKeith Emerson
Performer:  Jeffrey Biegel
Conductor:  Paul Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brown University Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Listen to the Naxos Podcast to learn more about this release

This program brings together four works for piano and orchestra by composers best known from the fields of jazz, popular song and progressive rock. Neil Sedaka's Manhattan Intermezzo explores the New York of today and yesterday with its melting pot of nationalities. Keith Emerson is best known as a founding member of Emerson Lake & Palmer. His remarkably inventive semi-autobiographical Piano Concerto No. 1 fuses his classical training with jazz. Duke Ellington's sublime New World a-Comin' is a visualization of improved conditions for black people in
Read more America, while the rarely heard original version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue represents the quintessential style of New York City in the roaring twenties.

The following article from Newsday gives more background to this recording:

Jeffrey Biegel has always loved George Gershwin’s classic “Rhapsody in Blue.” The pianist-composer remembers it always being played in his parents’ Plainview home. “It was my father’s favorite piece,” Biegel said. “He loved it. . . . I think it took until the ’90s before my father said, ‘I think you finally got it.’ ” Shortly after that, Biegel got the idea for what would become his new album “Manhattan Intermezzo."

Biegel wanted to record his version of “Rhapsody in Blue,” which is different from most interpretations. “I added measures from the Gershwin manuscripts,” he said. “It makes more sense to me that way. It’s only about a minute’s worth of music, but it’s all about putting the connective tissue back into it.” Because of that, he performs it differently from other artists. “I didn’t agree with swinging the rhythm into syncopated triplets,” Biegel said. “I see it with a more gentle bend, not as a swing piece. . . . I felt it was more a culmination of what was happening at the time.”

After selecting “Rhapsody in Blue” as the anchor of his new project, Biegel set out to find other pieces that would match its feel. He had fallen for a piano concerto by Keith Emerson — yes, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame — and had been performing it with Duke Ellington’s “New World A-Comin’,” which paired nicely, but there was still a missing link and that came by accident.

“I was at a birthday party for [producer-composer] David Foster,” Biegel recalled. “[Andrea] Bocelli was there. Neil [Sedaka] was there. People were singing and David said to me, ‘Now, you’re going to play.’ ” He performed a Chopin polonaise and was later approached by Sedaka, who had just finished a concerto called “Manhattan Intermezzo” and wanted him to hear it. “It was a look back at what New York meant to him,” Biegel said. “It captured the dances and culture of New York City, with a Russian flavor to it. . . . It was neo-romantic and lush. I loved it.”

Biegel asked Sedaka’s permission to “add some bells and whistles to the piano part,” which Sedaka granted after hearing what he had done. Soon, the piece received its world premiere with Orchestra Kentucky. And Biegel had found the final piece for his “Rhapsody in Blue” project, recording it all with the Brown University Orchestra and conductor Paul Phillips.


First off comes the Gershwin, which is worth the price of admission by itself: it gets a distinctive performance from pianist Jeffrey Biegel, with plenty of jazz accents, and it is presented in an edition by scholar Alicia Zizzo that probably represents Gershwin's own intentions. The Piano Concerto No. 1 of Keith Emerson, of the progressive rock group ELP, may be the nicest surprise of the four works. It incorporates many other influences besides that of ELP (there are even a few 12-tone passages), and it weaves them all together in an attractive score that is arguably the most sophisticated of any of the four works on the album. Worthy of special notice is the work of the Brown University Symphony Orchestra under Paul Phillips. Recommended.

– All Music Guide Read less

Works on This Recording

Manhattan Intermezzo, for piano & orchestra by Neil Sedaka
Performer:  Jeffrey Biegel (Piano)
Conductor:  Paul Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brown University Orchestra
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2008 
Piano Concerto No. 1 by Keith Emerson
Performer:  Jeffrey Biegel (Piano)
Conductor:  Paul Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brown University Orchestra
Period: Modern 
Written: 1976 
New World a-Comin' by Edward "Duke" Ellington
Performer:  Jeffrey Biegel (Piano)
Conductor:  Paul Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brown University Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1943; USA 
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
Performer:  Jeffrey Biegel (Piano)
Conductor:  Paul Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brown University Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; USA 

Featured Sound Samples

Manhattan Intermezzo

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Wrong order January 7, 2017 By R. Kast (Charlottesville, VA) See All My Reviews "Yes, that extended clarinet trill at the beginning of the CD is not an homage to Gershwin by Neil Sedaka. No, as the other reviewer has noted, the order on the CD is wrong. The CD states the order is Sedaka, Emerson. Ellington, Gershwin; actually the order is Gershwin, Sedaka, Ellington, Emerson. Someone apparently made the decision that you always need to lead with the marquee attraction. Wrong, in my opinion, but they could have at least labeled the CD to reflect the final editorial judgment. I do have to say that this type of lapse is extremely rare with Naxos, and I have bought enough of their CDs to know. As for the music, think Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops in their prime. And that ain't bad!" Report Abuse
 A Mixed Bag April 28, 2016 By Anita S. (WALLSEND, NSW) See All My Reviews "The label for this CD lists the tracks incorrectly which is very annoying. I ordered this principally for the Sedaka piece - I hadn't heard the Emerson or Ellington compositions previously - but now I have, I quite like them. The performances are competent but not outstanding." Report Abuse
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