Ravel; Lasser; Gershwin

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COMPOSERS: Ravel; Lasser; Gershwin
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: Broadway Lafayette
WORKS: Ravel: Piano Concerto in G; Lasser: The Circle and the Child; Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
PERFORMER: Simone Dinnerstein (piano); MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra/Kristjan Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: 88875032452

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Broadway-Lafayette, America and France, New York and Paris. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein’s latest disc explores these trans-Atlantic connections, though the pairing is essentially the reciprocal influence between Gershwin and Ravel. Consciously or otherwise, the European art music aspect of Rhapsody in Blue is to the fore, this being very much the full orchestral version, with mannerisms to match. Conversely, Ravel’s fascination with jazz is brought out in the outer movements of his Concerto.

These are pugnacious performances in which Dinnerstein’s heavily articulated playing is matched by plenty of detail from Kristjan Järvi’s Leipzig forces, who capture the spirit even if they don’t convince that they can naturally swing it. Sony’s sound recording assists: there’s the natural spaciousness of surround sound yet a crisp focus on each individual. The impression at times, though, is of all the players being in a single long line extending off either end of the stage. Is it possible to hear too much?

Franco-American composer Philip Lasser’s concerto The Circle and the Child raises a different philosophical question, along the lines of the unobserved tree falling in the forest. Despite over half-a-dozen hearings, no detail sticks in the memory beyond the Copland-meets-Debussy opening rising-then-falling motif. Lasser may be the only living composer on the disc, but vitality is found elsewhere. Lasser’s piece is perfectly pleasant listening, but there is an ocean-sized gulf in musical quality between this and either the Gershwin or Ravel.

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Christopher Dingle