GERSHWIN Rhapsody in Blue. Promenade
Faced with the plethora of recordings of Rhapsody in Blue, I increasingly return to the original jazz-band scoring made by Ferde Grofé in 1924 and pioneered in revivals by Michael Tilson Thomas. The second of his recordings – playing himself with the New World Symphony – is idiomatic and provides a continuity the work is supposed to lack. But Donohoe with Rattle and the London Sinfonietta on that classic 1987 ‘Jazz Album’ wears incredibly well. In some recordings the clarinet and trumpet solos exaggerate slides and slurs, as with the Bergen Philharmonic with Kempf under Litton. This Rhapsody with Orion Weiss and the Buffalo team follows their earlier release with the Piano Concerto and the Second Rhapsody (5/12). Weiss veers towards the Romantic piano concerto but is faithful to the score – not always the case these days.
Catfish Row, the original suite from Porgy and Bess, made by Gershwin, was given this title by his lyricist brother Ira in 1958 to distinguish it from lusher arrangements made by Robert Russell Bennett and others, but it’s not clear what the contribution of Stephen D Bowen, cited in the booklet, has been. The repetitions in the first movement are practically minimalist but, as some of the arrangers demonstrated, there are a lot of terrific tunes left out. Catfish Row is also on a highly praised CD with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Chailly (5/11) but it comes over well here; there’s a snazzy Overture to Strike Up the Band; and everything is decently recorded.