Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F; Porgy and Bess Symphonic Suite; Second Rhapsody

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Gershwin
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Piano Concerto in F; Porgy and Bess Symphonic Suite; Second Rhapsody
PERFORMER: Wayne Marshall (piano, director); Aalborg Symphony
CATALOGUE NO: VM 5 61243 2 DDD
British pianist/conductor, provincial Danish orchestra: this may seem like an unlikely partnership for Gershwin, but the Aalborg Symphony demonstrates a considerably better grasp of the idiom than many of their more famous rivals. Marshall’s playing of the major work here, the Piano Concerto in F, is alert and witty, without the over-grandiosity that can pull the work apart at the seams. In truth, the fast opening is something of a shock, but the various themes are so well integrated – with an especially classy turn of phrase for the slower second subject – that I quickly became used to Marshall’s lively approach to the outer movements. The central Adagio, on the other hand, is among the slowest on record, and may not be to all tastes.

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The Symphonic Suite from Porgy and Bess was put together after Gershwin’s death by his sometime collaborator Robert Russell Bennett, and makes a more satisfying sequence than the composer’s own Catfish Row Suite. Orchestral solos are impressively ‘vocal’ (trumpet and saxophone playing are especially good), though it would have been helpful if the booklet had identified the various numbers from the opera. I also can’t agree that the Second Rhapsody is ‘a work of comparable stature’ to the Rhapsody in Blue, but Marshall and the orchestra certainly give it their best shot. Stephen Maddock