Gershwin, Copland

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Copland,Gershwin
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Three Preludes; Song transcriptions
PERFORMER: Mark Anderson (piano)
If ‘authenticity’ means stripping off the varnish, then you couldn’t get more authentic than Earl Wild’s Rhapsody in Blue. This 1945 recording conducted by Paul Whiteman (who commissioned the piece in 1925) is a revelation. It’s as brassy, brisk and brash as a Buzby Berkeley show, and makes every other performance you’ve ever heard seem over-tasteful. The addition of a wordless chorus for the big tunes would sound soupy in a modern performance – here it seems just right. Wild is a kind of Hemingway of the piano – his playing is a demonstration of machismo. It works fabulously well in the Rhapsody, but his Lisztian virtuosity does rather get in the way of his Gershwin song transciptions. After a while you begin to long for playing that’s more than the musical equivalent of cracking walnuts with bare hands. Mark Anderson’s new disc provides it. He has just as much brio in his performances of the preludes as Wild, but some extra subtleties as well, and his arrangement of ‘An American in Paris’ is free of Wilde’s Lisztian excrescences. The Gershwin pieces are coupled with the magisterial Copland sonata, which receives as grand, supple and sonorous a performance as I have heard. Ivan Hewett