Gershwin, Joplin, Novacek, Foster, etc

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: etc,Foster,Gershwin,Joplin,Novacek
LABELS: Philips
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Americana
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Leila Josefowicz (violin), John Novacek (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 462 948-2
Itzhak Perlman’s transcriptions of rags by Joplin, Gershwin Preludes arranged by Heifetz and Charlie Chaplin’s theme from Modern Times are some of the brightly coloured lollipops brought together on Leila Josefowicz’s disc of Americana. She certainly has the panache and supreme technical assurance needed to bring these pieces to life, and John Novacek gives characterful support. Josefowicz starts out in fine style with Novacek’s own Four Rags, gliding effortlessly through the burning double-stops of ‘Intoxication’ and turning wittily seductive in ‘Street Drag’.

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Her virtuosity is breathtaking in such effervescent displays as the whistle-stop opening to Vieuxtemps’s Souvenir d’Amérique on ‘Yankee Doodle’ and the Heifetz arrangement of Gershwin’s First Prelude. The Perlman arrangements of Joplin’s The Ragtime Dance and The Easy Winners are dashed off with lilting ease, although perhaps with an unnecessarily percussive, brittle edge.

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Yet her approach occasionally comes across as over-mannered. These are bold and brash interpretations, as they should be, but as the disc rolled on, I longed for some real subtlety in her playing. The relentless portamento, too, is wearisome in places, most notably in Chaplin’s tender ‘Smile’. This said, the disc is still an enjoyable feast of North American music, imparted with Josefowicz’s characteristic fire and conviction. Catherine Nelson