Gershwin • Ravel
Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F; Rhapsody in Blue; An American in Paris; Ravel: Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
Pascal Rogé (piano); Vienna Radio Symphony/Bertrand de Billy
Oehms OC 1901 111:39 mins (2 discs)
Ravel and Gershwin admired each other’s music, got on cordially when they met in Paris and New York and shared an interest in jazz: so it makes sense to bring their concertante works together in a double album with An American in Paris thrown in. While the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra may not quite command the rhythmic ‘lift’ American orchestras bring to Gershwin’s rhythms, their participation in his Piano Concerto is crisp and colourful. It is enhanced by a spacious recorded balance that, while giving due prominence to Pascal Rogé’s idiomatic virtuosity, allows every orchestral detail to come through.
Ravel’s G major Concerto sounds equally vivid in its contrasts of puppet-like perkiness, sultry exoticism, bluesy harmony and moto perpetuo razzmatazz – though it is Rogé’s ineffable floating of the fully three-and-a-half minute slow waltz melody of the middle movement, without resort to ‘expressive’ pullings-around, that most lingers in the mind.
Unfortunately, the second disc is dubbed at a lower level – listeners will need to up their volume control. It is also more recessed and duller in recorded acoustic, so that it is difficult to say whether Rogé is actually less engaged by the Rhapsody in Blue or the recording makes him sound so. And for all his eloquence and tenderness, the Concerto for the Left Hand fails quite to register the monumental power of its tuttis or the obsessive menace of its march rhythms, though Bertrand de Billy has at least to be commended for not hamming up the trumpet blues at the centre of An American in Paris.