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George Gershwin
Rhapsody in Blue; Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra; Prelude No. 2 for Piano

Michel Camilo, piano
Ernest Martinez Izquierdo conducting
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra

Review By Wayne Donnelly
Click here to e-mail reviewer

CD Label: Telarc SACD 63611

 

  It's not unusual for hardcore collectors to accumulate many versions of favorite works. I am certainly guilty; a quick check of my LP and CD shelves reveals, for instance, more than 20 versions each of the Brahms First Piano Concerto and the Schubert Ninth Symphony and I could go on and on in that vein. My Gershwins are not quite so numerous, but I have still wound up with a half-dozen or so different releases of the Rhapsody and the Concerto.

Their popularity is no mystery. George Gershwin is one of America's greatest popular composers, and his abundant melodic gift is evident throughout both compositions. Moreover, they seem essentially interpretation-proof. I must confess to enjoying every performance approach I have heard, among them Eugene List (spiky and impetuous with Howard Hanson on a 50's Mercury, relaxed and almost Viennese decades later with Erich Kunzel on Telarc; Michael Tilson Thomas, lucid and classically proportioned; Leonard Bernstein, dashing and impetuous; and my long-time favorite, the astonishing Earl Wild/Arthur Fiedler on RCA Living Stereo LP.

Still, I admit to raising an eyebrow initially at this release: a Latino jazz pianist with a Spanish orchestra? Was I in for a shock! Michel Camilo need bow to no one even the formidable Wild in either sheer virtuosity or mastery of Gershwin's jazzy idiom. As my colleague Max Westler is wont to say, he "plays the pants off" both pieces. Maestro Izquierdo and his Barcelona players are equally impressive soulful and exciting, with brilliantly colorful phrasing throughout.

The Prelude No. 2 for Piano that completes this disc is a wonderful bonus. I cannot imagine a more flawless, spellbinding rendition then Camilo's.

The sound on this hybrid disc is some of Telarc's best: a marvelously broad and deep soundscape, rich instrumental color, and thrilling dynamics. The combination of great sound and inspired interpretation moves this recording to, at least, my co-favorite with Wild and Fiedler. Bravo Telarc, for one of your best recordings ever. Get it!

 

 

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