GERSHWIN: An American in Paris; Con. in F, Ov. to “Of Thee I Sing;” Three Preludes – Lincoln Mayorga p./ Harmonie Ens., NY/ Steven Richman – Harmonia mundi

Probably the best Gershwin Concerto in F on disc.

GERSHWIN: An American in Paris; Concerto in F, Ov. to “Of Thee I Sing;” Three Preludes – Lincoln Mayorga p./ Harmonie Ensemble, New York/ Steven Richman – Harmonia mundi  907658, 56:19 (8/26/16) *****:

Steven Richman and the Harmonie Ensemble worked with historically-informed performances of Gershwin, which the conductor has been doing for nearly three decades. The Grammy-nominated conductor wanted to recapture the lean unsentimental style which Gershwin intended for his works. Many of Gershwin’s orchestrations were edited and re-scored by misdirected publishers and arrangers over the years.

The 1928 American in Paris portrays an American visitor to the City of Light and was the inspiration for the 1951 Gene Kelley film as well as current Broadway musical/ballet hit. Roy Bargy’s orchestration of Gershwin’s Three Preludes for piano solo is heard here, and he was the original performer for Gershwin’s famous Rhapsody in Blue. The Preludes are full of Brazilian and Spanish flair and bluesy riffs, and have been transcribed for many other instruments. While there are many competing recordings of Gershwin’s first symphonic orchestration, the Concerto in F (including an excellent one conducted by, of all people, Mitch Miller). I would say both American in Paris and the Concerto in F get their best recordings herewith. (In college I played the Concerto in F myself with a university orchestra and think it is the greatest American piano concerto ever written.) The opening Overture to Of Thee I Sing is the first recording of the radio arrangement.

Mayorga is the co-founder (with the late Doug Sax) of Sheffield Labs and was responsible for the very first direct discs of the vinyl era. He has been performing and recording as a piano soloist and accompanist for some years.

Previous excellent Harmonie Ensemble recordings are the Henry Mancini: Music for Peter Gunn (once Stereophile’s Recording of the Month) and Gershwin by Grofé.

—John Sunier

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