Somm Recordings closes the 120th anniversary year of George Gershwin’s birth with the re-issue of the historic 1998 Centennial Edition recording initiated by the composer’s sister, Frances Gershwin, together with first appearances on disc of two orchestrations commissioned from José Serebrier.
Originally released on Dinemec Classics, the Gershwin Centennial Edition features the composer’s nephew and Frances’ son, pianist Leopold Godowsky III, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by José Serebrier.
The recording followed a concert in London (the capital’s only official celebration in the centenary year of Gershwin’s birth) organised by the composer’s formidable sister, Frances – 96 at the time – who invited Serebrier to conduct An American in Paris, the Concerto in F (with Godowsky as soloist), and, in specially commissioned orchestrations by Serebrier, the Three Preludes and Lullaby – both of which are issued on disc for the first time here. The programme shows Gershwin at his inimitable, era-defining best. Composed as an extended ballet sequence for the 1951 MGM musical starring Gene Kelly, An American in Paris is a buoyant, Technicolor-bright tribute to the French capital shot through with jazz-accented vitality.
The Concerto in F is a bold, brassy, brilliantly orchestrated work with a grandstanding piano line bridging the worlds of classical music and jazz. Its animated opening movement is followed by a Blues-tinged Adagio and a finale boasting a helter-skelter orgy of rhythm and athletic pianism. Initially reluctant to orchestrate Lullaby, Serebrier says: “Now I am glad Leopold persuaded me. I have tried to keep the scoring as simple and pure as possible, so that the orchestral version of this poignantly lovely piece might take on a life of its own in a voice that is still recognizably Gershwin’s”.
Orchestrating the Three Preludes, he recalls, “was great fun” – a feeling thrillingly in evidence on the surface of the vigorous and dancelike first and third preludes framing a “blues lullaby” that is altogether more gentle and intimate.
The never before re-issued recording – produced by the legendary Paul Myers – is a brilliant reminder of one of the most remarkable talents of the 20th century in performances by one of his greatest interpreters.
On This Recording
An American in Paris
- An American in Paris Three Preludes
- I Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
- II Andante con moto e poco rubato
- III Allegro ben ritmato e deciso Concerto in F, for Piano & Orchestra
- I Allegro
- II Andante con moto
- III Allegro agitato Lullaby
“This never before re-issued recording – produced by the legendary Paul Myers – is a brilliant reminder of one of the most remarkable talents of the 20th century in performances by one of his greatest interpreters.” —New Classics “the place to start is with the Preludes, which make an easy transfer from piano to ensemble in Serebrier’s stylish and idiomatic scoring, kaleidoscopically colourful – dance-band-meets-symphony-orchestra – in the outer numbers, and especially affecting in the central one, dreamy and nocturnal, tinted duskily; and the addition of woodwinds (including suave saxophone) to Gershwin’s strings in Lullaby is nicely imagined, a gentle lilt pervasive and, at the midpoint, some of the composer’s most-tender and haunting music.” —Colin Anderson, Classical Source