Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris

Dutoit's American takes like a native to Paris—as well he might given the Montreal Symphony Orchestra's near-ideal blend of French sophistication and New York street-wise audacity. One can just see Gene Kelly hoofing down the cool Parisian boulevards thinking only of Times Square. The honking taxi horns and busy rattle of xylophone draw us vividly into the hustle and bustle; Gershwin's snappy rhythms could hardly be slicker, or better co-ordinated, or more spontaneous,

and there is charm to spare in all those cheeky musical asides that Gershwin was so fond of. Not even Chailly (my other favourite version also from Decca) slips as deliciously into the central blues, lazy trumpet (superb) and crooning saxes (wonderfully decadent throughout, but nowhere more so than in the crescendo pay-off at the close), catching the luxuriance of the moment to a nicety. Dutoit is in no hurry to move on; neither are we.

There is much more where that came from in his lush account of the 'orchestral' Rhapsody in Blue with Louis Lortie a smooth, if not especially idiomatic, operator offering a credible impersonation of 1920s 'classical' swing style. In the light of the Rattle (EMI) and Litton (RPO Records/ASV) versions of the 'jaz band' original, I confess that these days I find it difficult to forego those nostalgically sepia tones for this, the opulent alternative. For my money it is only an alternative. Even so, you sense how good Dutoit is going to be from the moment that his feline clarinettist stretches into the opening solo. Just as you know from his trumpeter's misty-eyed rendition of the ''Strawberry Woman'' chant from Porgy and Bess that this account of Robert Russell Bennett's masterly Symphonic Picture is not about to short-change you either.

Russell Bennett would, I'm sure, have delighted in hearing his orchestrations so keenly observed: the melodies live and breathe in them and Dutoit again takes like a native to th style— from the oboe and string caresses of ''Summertime'' to the mordant burlesque of Sportin' Life's numbers. True, he doesn't quite rise to the rowdy reprise of ''There's a Boat that's Leavin''' as Previn and the LSO do in their terrific EMI version, but in most other respects Dutoit is fully the equal of any.

Add to the above the suitably intoxicating bongo and maraca-led rhythms of Gershwin's grand Rumba—the Cuban Overture—and a recording which, typical of the source, is both focused and airy, and I can't imagine anybody looking for this particular selection being disappointed. I haven't enjoyed a Dutoit disc more in ages.' --Gramophone 3/1990, Edward Seckerson

MP3 320 · 149 MB

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