The Gershwin Moment
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; Concerto in F; Levant: Blame It on My Youth; Wild: Virtuoso Etudes after Gershwin (selection)
Kirill Gerstein (piano); St Louis Symphony Orchestra/David Robertson
Myrios Classics MYR 022
Kirill Gerstein’s previous releases, heavy on Liszt, Schumann and the Russians, never suggested that a ‘Gershwin Moment’ might be imminent. But Gerstein came to America as a teenager to study jazz piano at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and his affinity with this lively repertoire is apparent as soon as he hits the keys. In Rhapsody in Blue, played in its jazz band scoring, each of his notes springs up with a bounce; rhythms are always hot and crisp. David Robertson’s St Louis forces are equally electrifying in these live recordings, taken mostly from public concerts last April (with copious amounts of applause included, on one occasion between movements).
The Concerto in F benefits especially from the care taken to highlight its inner voices and sensuous orchestral colouring. In the spirit of jazz improvisation, Gerstein takes occasional ‘liberties’, inserting a crunchy twiddle right at the start and slipping in an extra minute unhelpfully extending the adagio’s quasi-cadenza.
Among the album’s extras, the laidback jazz interpretations of Summertime (vocalist Storm Large) and Oscar Levant’s song Blame It On My Youth (with Gary Burton’s doodling vibraphone) may suit some tastes, if not mine. But we can all surely agree that the intimate, slinky sound of Robertson and Gerstein’s Rhapsody is very refreshing; that Earl Wild’s outrageous and witty Virtuoso Etudes make excellent encores; and that King Kong, seen astride the Empire State Building on the CD’s cover, looks like he’s having a wonderful time