Freddy Kempf, whose BIS recordings have so far stuck to the pianistic high road from Bach to Prokofiev, throws himself into Gershwin with the complete works for piano and orchestra. His first entry in the ambitious Concerto in F is a touch disappointing, so slow as to create the impression that the piece is beginning with a series of introductions. But his playing after that combines dazzling articulation with a feeling for jazz rhythms and big Broadway-style tunes. The same virtues see him through the Rhapsody in Blue, Second Rhapsody (originally called Rhapsody in Rivets), and the I Got Rhythm Variations.
Andrew Litton, no slouch himself as a Gershwin pianist, provides an idiomatic accompaniment with his Bergen Philharmonic, resplendently recorded with the piano nicely integrated into the texture. There’s a convincingly bluesy trumpet in the slow movement of the Concerto, and a wildly jazzy clarinet in the Rhapsody in Blue – fine in solos but blurring some shared lines. The Rhapsody, incidentally, is played in Ferde Grofé’s original scoring for Paul Whiteman’s jazz band, and the Second Rhapsody in the orchestration Gershwin gave it before it suffered the attentions of a publisher’s arranger.
To my mind, these performances don’t quite eclipse those by Michael Boriskin and the Eos Orchestra under the baton of Jonathan Sheffer (on Sony or the Classic FM label), which are lighter and tighter all round. But this is still a highly recommendable disc, featuring
state-of-the-art recorded sound, and the option to listen in surround.