Finnissy: Gershwin Arrangements; More Gershwin

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Metronome
WORKS: Gershwin Arrangements; More Gershwin
PERFORMER: Nicolas Hodges (piano)
As a proud member of the chorus of critics who praised Ian Pace’s interpretation of this music on Metier (reviewed August 2000), on hearing this version I concede that I have made a rod for my own back. That two fine recordings of such excellent stuff should be issued in at least passably quick succession is a luxury. For those unfamiliar with the music, these are essentially reimaginings of some of Gershwin’s best-known songs in piano-transcription form. Finnissy has performed subtle surgery on the original material so that, while its origins are still apparent, there are shifts of emphasis, transformations of mood and overt structural reinventions, all of which come together to produce a unique perspective on the tunes themselves. Imagine musicologists two millennia hence trying to reconstruct the compositions of Gershwin from fragments of notation, textual references to the music and so on, and you’ll begin to come close to the extraordinary mixture of respect, creative passion and refreshing, oblique thinking which is evident here. Central to this, of course, is the fact that the tunes of Gershwin have been routinely reinterpreted throughout their existence. That I prefer Pace’s interpretation to that of Nicolas Hodges is entirely a matter of taste. Hodges is perhaps more subtle, his tone a little more delicate, his phrasing a little more respectful, whereas Pace favours intensity counterbalanced by a knowing, parlour-upright tone, an idiosyncratic yet highly appropriate combination. I’m afraid that owning both discs is the only answer. Roger Thomas