Collection: American Classics

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Adams,Ellington,Gershwin
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: An American in Paris; Harlem; Symphonic Dances from West Side Story; The Chairman Dances
PERFORMER: Hollywood Bowl Orchestra/John Mauceri
CATALOGUE NO: 438 663-2 DDD

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The disappointment on this disc is Gershwin’s An American in Paris. Mauceri should be its ideal interpreter, but he turns in a surprisingly lacklustre performance with little jauntiness, frequent loss of momentum and painfully protracted rallentandi. It just doesn’t sparkle. If you want some zip, try Fiedler and the Boston Pops on RCA; it’s a precipitate account, admittedly, knocking three and a half minutes off Mauceri’s timing, but the climactic moments will have you on the edge of your seat. Duke Ellington conceived Harlem for his 16-piece band in harness with a full symphony orchestra, leaving Luther Henderson to devise the orchestral score.

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This new edition is by Mauceri himself, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra gives it the big treatment, though with plenty of light and shade. The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story receive a similarly committed performance, finger-snapping, shouting and all. John Adams is a minimalist in the Reich and Glass mould. The Chairman Dances, a spin-off from his 1985 opera Nixon in China, displays the relentlessly unvarying pulsation characteristic of minimalist music and encompasses the scintillating and the pensive, the sheeny and the dark-toned. The scoring is masterly and the orchestra copes splendidly with the kaleidoscopically shifting tone colours. Wadham Sutton