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Gershwin: Concerto In F, Rhapsody No 2, I Got Rhythm Variations / Orion Weiss

Gershwin / Weiss / Buffalo Philharmonic Orch
Release Date: 02/28/2012 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559705  
Composer:  George Gershwin
Performer:  Orion Weiss
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It may seem odd to praise a release for what it does not contain, but leaving out Rhapsody in Blue really was a good idea. The piece has been so over-recorded, and evokes such strong opinions from both listeners and critics as to how it ought to go, that it was smart to leave it out rather than risk sinking the whole project by including it just because the playing time permits. Besides, this naturally focuses attention on the Second Rhapsody, a splendid, neglected work that suffers because it doesn't contain a "big tune". That's not quite fair: the work has lots of good tunes--just not a popular one of the slower, more lyrical variety that we find in "Blue". In any case it is very well played and conducted by the team Read more of Orion Weiss and JoAnn Falletta, and comes across as a work of impressive brilliance and depth. The same goes for the Variations, given a bold, gutsy performance with plenty of pizzazz.

The Concerto, though, is quite different, and not in a bad way. If you look at the score you'll notice immediately that Gershwin often uses the qualified "poco" ("a little bit") when he modifies tempo or phrasing. Most performers read this as "molto" ("a lot"), particularly at the initial entrance of the piano. The result sectionalizes the music more than need be, and contributes to the charge that Gershwin was not comfortable working in large forms. This performance is no exception, with Weiss' initial entrance very much slower than the preceding orchestral introduction, and also with a very moderate tempo taken for much of the finale.

However, as with all such matters, the devil is in the details. First, Weiss' emphasis on the music's more reflective elements isn't a momentary affectation, but a legitimate characteristic of the interpretation as a whole. Second, Falletta seems to be of the same mind: she handles transitions between sections with great care and smoothness, so that the music never loses its flow. Third, both Weiss and Falletta keep rhythms sharp and clear, especially in the outer movements where they matter most, and shade dynamics and accents so that the music retains its color and freshness. Finally, the slow movement, as you might otherwise have expected given the general approach, is not excessively slow, so that the performance never turns dull and the entire work is nicely balanced.

The result, of its type, is one of the more thoughtful and beautiful versions of the work to come out in recent years. As with the performance of the Second Rhapsody, you might hear an unusual degree of "substance" in this interpretation, a seriousness that places the music beyond the usual Pops Concert fare--and heaven knows there's nothing wrong with that. The disc is also very well recorded and sounds quite impressive in both regular stereo and Blu-ray versions. A very pleasant surprise.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Variations on "I got rhythm" for Piano and Orchestra by George Gershwin
Performer:  Orion Weiss (Piano)
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; USA 
2.
Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra no 2 "Rhapsody in Rivets" by George Gershwin
Performer:  Orion Weiss (Piano)
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; USA 
3.
Concerto for Piano in F major by George Gershwin
Performer:  Orion Weiss (Piano)
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; USA 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto in F major: I. Allegro moderato - Cantabile - Poco meno scherzando
Piano Concerto in F major: II. Andante con moto
Piano Concerto in F major: III. Allegro con brio
Second Rhapsody
I Got Rhythm Variations

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Orion Weiss Gershwin Performances July 18, 2012 By D. Levy (Lakewood, NJ) See All My Reviews "Unfortunately, I found myself yawning during Mr. Weiss' Gershwin Concerto in F, and also during the I Got Rhythm Variations. Mr. Weiss seems to lack the energy and propulsive drive necessary for this music. Listen to the recordings made by Earl Wild with Arthur Fiedler, or those of Oscar Levant (a personal friend of Gershwin) with Morton Gould, or Andre Previn, and you will hear the difference.kD Also, I think the piano should play along with the orchestra during the full statement of the beautiful slow theme in the middle of the first movement. The piano score is ambiguous on this point, showing some doublings of the orchestration. But Levant and Wild do double the theme along with the orchestra. Previn does not, but perhaps he had his hands full as conductor as well as soloist. Did he conduct this himself? Note that all three recordings I recommend were made during the 1960s, except for Levant's recording, which was made in the late '40s or early '50s, closer in time to Gershwin's era. Perhaps today we are so far from the 1920s jazz esthetic that we have forgotten how to play these works." Report Abuse
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