Gershwin; Ravel

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COMPOSERS: Gershwin; Ravel
ALBUM TITLE: Gershwin; Ravel
WORKS: Rhapsody in Blue – Gershwin; An American in Paris – Gershwin; Concerto for the left hand in D – Ravel
PERFORMER: Pascal Rogé (piano); Vienna Radio SO/Bertrand de Billy


Talk about well-travelled! This American in Paris implicates a Frenchman in Vienna, where the cabs honk with Gallic gusto and the Charleston rocks. Bertrand de Billy’s orchestra is having a ball, aided by an SACD recording which can’t believe its luck with the exuberant scoring (even if the percussion is neon-lit). Add Pascal Rogé to the mix and the scene is set for a tantalising sequel to their previous excursion into the overlapping worlds of Ravel and Gershwin. Ravel once played Rhapsody in Blue to Gershwin at a private party. It’s tempting to think it must have sounded something like Rogé’s performance here: sophisticated, elegant, oh-so-well-behaved – less whiskey than the ‘Royal House of’. It’s a somewhat sanitized approach which emphasises the ‘symphonic’ in symphonic jazz, any nicotine-stained loucheness more likely to emanate from solos within the orchestra. Of course that aristocratic fastidiousness is just what Ravel needs, and the Left Hand Concerto starts well with wonderfully saturnine grumblings and a superbly sculpted long orchestral crescendo. Rogé’s entry sounds a little underpowered though – at any rate if you can only hear it on CD where the recorded balance is more problematic (the SACD option is much better). Krystian Zimerman with Boulez exhibits more heft and sense of forward movement; Rogé’s sonorities have the translucent edge though, and his long soliloquy after the Allegro’s huge climax is particularly fine. Rogé/de Billy or Zimerman/Boulez? It’s a tough call… but the American in Paris should prove a welcome tourist anywhere. Paul Riley