Simon Rattle Edition - American Music

Release Date: 9/16/2008
Catalog Number: 5099921501425
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Number of Discs: 7

Physical Format:

CD
Low Stock
$57.99
Notes and Editorial Reviews
This one will appeal.

EMI is Rattling, a process by which the company encloses a corpus of his recordings in handy boxes at tempting prices. This one will appeal. Despite all the carping about his custodianship of the central Austro-German repertoire I don’t think there are many complaints about his idiomatic handling of American music; or if there are they tend to be peripheral and not systemic. I’ve always found him impressive here.


These are all well known performances so my brief will be to highlight things I especially liked, liked re-acquainting myself with, or perhaps found less successful. We’ll take it disc by disc.


Rattle’s Ellington (and Billy Strayhorn) album takes Luther Henderson arrangements laced with some outstanding jazz soloists. Sometimes these arrangements are rather utilitarian – Take the ‘A’ Train has the soloists topped and tailed by the CBSO. And then again sometimes they are overblown, as in Sophisticated Lady. Lena Horne, frail but personable, laid down her contributions in New York – her You’re the One is touching, still, for all that. Henderson orchestrated Harlem for Ellington back in 1950. It’s a work that has always struck me as over-extended. Still the performance is good within its bounds. Bobby Watson takes on Johnny Hodges in Isfahan. Gerri Allen shows her chops in Ad Lib on Nippon – less percussive than Duke but subtle. It Don’t Mean a Thing (or, as here, That Doo-wah Thing) is an exercise here in fatuous Cop show soundtrackery. Regina Carter, strangely weak, appears on Come Sunday. Henderson infiltrates some Delian harmonies into the arrangement of Solitude (or Solitude in Transbluecency). Clark Terry is on hand for some sassy muggles on Things Ain’t – praise be to Clark.


The disc devoted to John Adams, with whom Rattle was strongly identified for a while, is a powerfully enticing one, though not without organisational blemish. Naturally there are the hot shot favourites - Chairman, Tromba, Short Ride – but these are balanced by the Harmonielehre in a performance of revelatory strength. Rattle and the CBSO are especially compelling in its second movement in which the element of nocturnal darkening and twisting is brought out with exceptional cogency. The rest of the disc is a hodge podge. A bit of Ives, the opening five minutes of Rhapsody in Blue, the Mambo from West Side Story and some Carter. It’s unsatisfactory and, actually, just a bit pointless.


As much as Adams, Rattle has managed to get close to the Bernstein muse. His Wonderful Town performance dominates disc two, with its all-star cast and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group on hand to deliver the goods. Maybe there’s just too much of a regimented feel to the orchestra’s swing for sheer liberative pleasure but the overall results are strongly in favour of the ensemble performance. Kim Criswell is, to use that word again, sassy ( One hundred easy ways to lose a man) and Thomas Hampson as Baker proves formidably conversant with the modus operandus. His A quiet girl is warmly and softly done, with no hint of the histrionically operatic – he has a demotic honesty in his delivery. Crowd scenes are well judged spatially – try Act II’s Swing! scene early on. The chorus sings well into the bargain. And as a curtain closer we have Michael Collins in Prelude, Fugue and Riffs – not as swing out sister as Americans do it, but engaging.


Gershwin looms large. Rhapsody in Blue is heard complete in Peter Donohoe’s performance in the Grofé orchestration. He plays with drama, not too much metrical freedom but considerable incision. He follows this with a peppy selection from the Songbook, brief and pungent. The last, I Got Rhythm, reminds us of the celebrated film of Gershwin playing it. There’s a fair amount of excitement in the Concerto in F which Donohoe recorded four years after the Rhapsody. The bonne bouche of Harvey and the Wallbangers (from Rattle’s The Jazz Album, as was the Rhapsody) had a certain amount of cringe quality back when the record was first released, I seem to remember, but I do quite like the playing of the London Sinfonietta in this elemental triptych.


And it’s to Gershwin that the rest of the box is devoted – three discs of the classic Glyndebourne Porgy and Bess. The recording was made in Abbey Road and the cast had honed its performance to a requisitely high standard. There is atmosphere her a-plenty, a fine approach to and appreciation of the essential swing in Gershwin’s writing as well as to those moments of opulent string gloss. The brass section is on the money as well. The cast meanwhile proves wholly splendid, with White, Haymon and Blackwell a trio of unimpeachable quality and the run-down of singers shows that there are no weak chains anywhere, simply strength in depth – amongst whom it would be invidious to omit Damon Evans’s Sportin’ Life.


The booklet gives cast lists and essential information – synopses and a brief essay on Rattle and ‘Americana’. I’d go for this one – if, that is, you lack Rattle’s Porgy, which takes up three sevenths of the box.


-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
1. Harmonielehre by John Adams
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1985 ; USA
2. The Chairman Dances by John Adams
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1985 ; USA
3. Fanfares (2) for Orchestra: Tromba Lontana by John Adams
Performer: Jonathan [Trumpet] Holland (Trumpet), Wesley Warren (Trumpet)
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1986 ; USA
4. Fanfares (2) for Orchestra: Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1986 ; United States
5. Rhapsody in Blue: Introduction by George Gershwin
Performer: Wayne Marshall (Piano)
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1924 ; USA
6. Celebration of some 100 x 150 notes by Elliott Carter
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1986 ;
7. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances - Mambo by Leonard Bernstein
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1957 ; USA
8. Wonderful Town by Leonard Bernstein
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1952 ; USA
9. Prelude, Fugue and Riffs by Leonard Bernstein
Performer: Michael Collins (Clarinet)
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble: London Sinfonietta
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1949/1955 ; United States
11. Sophisticated Lady, musical: [Excerpt] by Edward "Duke" Ellington
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: Modern
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1963 ; USA
13. Ad lib on Nippon by Edward "Duke" Ellington
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
14. That Doo-wah Thing (after Ellington & Mills: It Don't Mean a Thing) by Luther Henderson
Conductor: Simon Rattle
15. Something to Live For, song by Edward "Duke" Ellington
Conductor: Simon Rattle
16. Black, Brown and Beige Suite: Come Sunday by Edward "Duke" Ellington
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1943 ; New York, USA
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1934 ; USA
19. Things ain't what they used to be by Mercer Ellington
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
21. Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
Performer: Peter Donohoe (Piano)
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble: London Sinfonietta
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1924 ; USA
22. George Gershwin's Songbook for Piano by George Gershwin
Performer: Peter Donohoe (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1932 ; USA
23. Concerto for Piano in F major by George Gershwin
Performer: Peter Donohoe (Piano)
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1925 ; USA
24. Nobody's Sweetheart by Ernie Erdman / Billy Meye
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: Modern
Written: 1923 ;
25. Sweet Sue (Just You) by Victor Young
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: Modern
Written: 1928 ;
26. Holidays: Decoration Day by Charles Ives
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1912 ; USA
27. Harlem (A Tone Parallel to Harlem), for orchestra by Edward "Duke" Ellington
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: Modern
28. Take the 'A' Train by Billy Strayhorn
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: Modern
Written: 1941 ; United States of Ame
29. After You've Gone, song by Turner Layton
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Period: Modern
Written: 1918 ;
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