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  Harmonia Mundi -
  HMU 807441
  Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F, Rhapsody in Blue, Cuban Overture - Nakamatsu, Tyzik
  Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F, Rhapsody in Blue, Cuban Overture

Jon Nakamatsu (piano)
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Jeff Tyzik (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 3

Reviews: 2

Review by darkroommd May 30, 2007 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I am surprised to be the first person to review/recommend this album, considering it received a glowing review and a 10/10 rating by Mr. Hurwitz over at back in April. I am pleased with the purchase and can give a strong recommendation to anyone interested in this album.

I had not previously heard Jon Nakamatsu perform. He is outstanding, both technically and artistically. This is not an "improvised" version of the Rhapsody in Blue. It is the fully orchestrated and fully written piano part. But Nakamatsu gives it plenty of his own style to make it throughly fresh and enjoyable, using a wide variety of rubato and whimsical contrasts in style. For example, at one moment he suddenly changes from a straight eighth to a swing rhythm in mid-phrase--to great effect!!--yet never sounds contrived. Despite the characteristic episodic nature of the Gershwin Rhapsody, there is still an overall sense of continuity.

Truthfully, I never spent much time on Gershwin's Piano Concerto in my old RBCD library, usually finding it rather tiresome. Hearing it now is a revelation. IMHO, it has a sound that I can best describe as "Broadway," with that iconic American blend of classical, jazz, and rock. If intended to be more formal than programmatic, it still certainly manages to conjure up plenty of imagery in my mind.

After hearing these two great piano & orchestra performances by Nakamatsu and the Rochester Philharmonic, I am only left wishing to hear them play Gershwin's Second Rhapsody. Instead, we get a rollicking shirttails-untucked playing of the Cuban Overture, which will not disappoint.

Sonically, it approaches the very finest SA-CD's available, nicely transparent, good left-right separation, and absolutely perfect balance between orchestra, piano, and percussion. There is a shade less from the surround speakers than some other multi-channel recordings, which made me actually go put my ear up to the speakers.

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Review by seth May 31, 2007 (4 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
In the pantheon of Gershwin recordings, the Piano Concert and Rhapsody receive fine performances, but ultimately nothing that rivals what's already currently available in any format. The most noteworthy performance on this disc is the Cuban Overture, so I'll focus on that.

Rather than trying to outdo the best performances of the Cuban Overture, Tyzik has come up with an alternative interpretation. Instead of being a fast paced show piece as conducted by Maazel, the tempos are much more relaxed. Tyzik focuses on emphasizing the music's dance rhythms. He sees it more as a rumba than an overture. An obvious important component to this is the Latin band, which plays a more integral part than normal. Typically the Latin band is just a lot of fizzy noise -- all you really hear are the maracas. Here the maracas have been muted a bit allowing the bongo, "Cuban Sticks" and gourd to come through quite clearly (more clearly than any recording I've heard). Also, instead of the maracas being frantically waived around, they help beat out the time, which gives the music some extra sway, contributing to Tyzik's rumba interpretation.

The final trick up Tyzik's sleeve is the coda. After the final fanfare, the Latin band is given a brief solo moment. Then the music resumes into the coda, and the final climax is given a triple take. It's a fun and effective touch.

Despite all the attention that is given to the Latin band, I'm a bit bewilder why Tyzik pushed it over to the left side of the orchestra instead of having it front and center as Gershwin wanted (the instruments are clearly dominant in the left speaker).

I still enjoy Maazel's recording the most, but this is a welcome addition to my collection.

Fans of the Cuban overture will not want to miss this disc. If you're not a fan of the Cuban overture -- and you really should be -- than you'll probably be content with the Gershwin recordings you currently own.

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Works: 3  

George Gershwin - Cuban Overture
George Gershwin - Piano Concerto in F
George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue