GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto in F; Rhapsody in Blue; Cuban Overture – Jon Nakamatsu, piano/ Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra/ Jeff Tyzik – Harmonia mundi

by | Apr 2, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto in F; Rhapsody in Blue; Cuban Overture – Jon Nakamatsu, piano/ Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra/ Jeff Tyzik – Harmonia mundi multichannel SACD 807441, 61:19 *****:

The Piano Concerto was Gershwin’s demonstration that he no longer needed an orchestrator – such as Ferde Grofe who made the smash premiere of Rhapsody in Blue possible – but was now adept enough in the classical style to do it himself. And a grand job he did too – creating an exciting, more sophisticated and expressive piano/orchestra work than the Rhapsody, one which eventually became the most-performed piano concerto by any American composer.

The concerto’s first movement is based on a Charleston rhythm in a very sophisticated version, the languorous second movement shows the influences of the blues, and the third is full of wild syncopated rhythms rubbing up against one another at a frenetic pace. I played the concerto in college and loved it, but it wasn’t easy by any means.

Frankly, I was going to skip thru the Rhapsody in Blue due to overexposure, but just a short ways into it I was captured for the duration. I’ve heard/seen both Nakamatsu and Tyzik recently in live performance (not in these works), and they seem like a perfect duo to bring out the jazzy , enthusiastic tone of all this music of Gershwin. The Rhapsody sounds fresher and more cheeky than I’ve heard from most other recordings, and some of the more difficult piano passages in both works are run off with amazing clarity and acceleration by Nakamatsu.  The Cuban Overture was the result of a vacation in Havana which Gershwin enjoyed, and is brimming with island rhythms and plenty of appropriate percussion to the fore. HM’s transparent hi-res surround captures the concert hall impression of this excellent orchestra.  Most highly recommended.

 – John Sunier

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