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Gershwin At The Keyboard / Ivar Anton Waagaard


Release Date: 02/12/2013 
Label:  Lawo Classics   Catalog #: 1021  
Composer:  George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



GERSHWIN Swanee. Nobody But You. I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise. Do It Again. Fascinating Rhythm. Oh, Lady Be Good. Somebody Loves Me. That Certain Feeling. The Man I Love. Clap Yo’ Hands. Do Do Do. My One and Only. ’S Wonderful. Strike Up the Band. Liza. I Got Rhythm. Who Cares? Rhapsody in Blue. Rialto Ripples . Impromptu in 2 Keys. Preludes (3). Melody No. 17. Rubato. Novelette in 4ths. Jasbo Brown Blues. Merry Andrew. 3/4 Blues. Promenade. 2 Waltzes in C Ivar Anton Waagaard (pn) Read more class="BULLET12"> • LAWO 1021 (65:25)


This is the most difficult kind of CD to review, a disc where the performer almost gets it right, but some reserve in his emotional makeup seems to hold him back from complete success. Ivar Anton Waagaard, who is quite clearly an outstanding pianist—his playing is clean, sensitive, and well detailed—just misses capturing the essence of Gershwin. In the liner notes, one of Gershwin’s favorite quotes is reproduced: “The rhythms of American popular music … should be made to snap. … Most pianists with a classical training fail lamentably in the playing of our ragtime or jazz because they use the pedaling of Chopin.” Waagaard certainly does not use much pedal, which is all to the good, and, well, he makes the rhythms snap, but the snap is gentle and reserved, like the woman whose goodnight kiss is just a shade too hesitant. You know that she really wants to do it, but something inside her mind tells her to pull back just a bit. That describes Waagaard’s Gershwin to a T. Anyone who has heard the composer’s own recordings of just about any of his music knows that energy was his middle name.


Which is a shame, because so much of this album is fascinating. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first-ever recording of the folio published under the title Gershwin at the Keyboard, which provides the first 18 selections on this disc. These were personal arrangements in his own style of his most popular tunes, scored the way he actually played them and not in the stock arrangements simplified for amateur pianists. They are full of quirky rhythms and substitute chords, and are much more challenging for both player and listener. Most of them are a minute or less in duration. I am not terribly surprised to see The Man I Love run over two minutes, but it does surprise me to see Liza do the same. This is an especially imaginative treatment of the tune, the tempo slowed down from where you normally hear it and several felicitous keyboard rolls thrown in for interest—and it works. Yet even in the other, shorter pieces, such as I Got Rhythm or ’S Wonderful, you hear many of the composer’s unusual treatments of his own songs.


More of the same pervades Waagaard’s interpretations of the Rhapsody in Blue, based on Vernon Duke’s arrangement with some material taken from Alicia Zizzo’s annotated edition published in 1996. It doesn’t even begin to capture the headlong excitement of Gershwin’s own versions. Nor do his performances of all six preludes for piano, of which only the three official, published works are really of a high order. I am, however, delighted to find yet another recording of Rialto Ripples, an early rag that Gershwin co-wrote with Walter Donaldson, since it was later adapted as the theme song (titled Oriental Blues ) of the Ernie Kovacs Show.


For the sake of those who somehow cling to the belief that Gershwin’s music represented jazz, I hasten to disencumber you of this notion. The only thing that is “jazz” about his music is some of the rhythms and substitute chords. Gershwin was by no means an improvising musician. He would have lost a cutting contest to Fats Waller in less than 10 minutes, just as Waller lost (at various times) to Earl Hines, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and Art Tatum. And one other thing: The liner notes claim that when Maurice Ravel came to America in 1928, and he heard Gershwin play his Rhapsody in Blue at a private party, he used that experience as “an important inspiration for his Piano Concerto in G Major.” Not entirely true. During that same American visit, Ravel also went to Chicago, where he visited a small nightclub called the Apex Club to hear the little band led by New Orleans clarinetist Jimmie Noone. And in that band he encountered the “most astounding pianist” he had ever heard in his life, Earl Hines. During intermission, Ravel approached Hines and offered to write a piano concerto for him, yet although Hines had not only a formidable technique but classical training, he was too intimidated by the offer and politely refused. Nevertheless, Ravel kept Hines’s abilities in mind—along with Gershwin’s, and a smattering of Stravinsky—when he wrote his piano concerto.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
Waltzes (2) for Piano in C major by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; New York, USA 
2.
Three-quarter blues by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
3.
Rubato by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
4.
Novelette in fourths by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
5.
Sleepless Night "Melody no 17" by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
6.
Impromptu for Piano in 2 keys by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1924; USA 
7.
George Gershwin's Songbook for Piano by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; USA 
8.
Rialto Ripples by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917; USA 
9.
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; USA 
10.
Preludes (3) for Piano by George Gershwin
Performer:  Ivar Anton Waagaard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; USA 

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