Ravel Meets Gershwin (2011)

by | Aug 29, 2011 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Ravel Meets Gershwin (2011)
Live concert at Philharmonie, Berlin, 12/31/03
Conductor/Orchestra: Simon Rattle/The Berlin Philharmonic
Guest vocalist: Dianne Reeves with her trio
Program: GERSHWIN: Strike Up the Band Overture, 6 Songs; FAURE: Pavane; RAVEL: La valse, Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2
Studio: EuroArts 2053648 [8/30/11] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: PCM stereo
No region code
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: *****
If only all attempts at classical/jazz/pop crossover projects were as completely as successful as this one! Sir Simon really let his super-curly hair down for this one, and it’s a gem from start to finish. Of course we already know some of those Berlin musicians can swing very well, from the recordings of the Berlin Cellists. There is an uncredited violinist who does a gangbusters hot fiddle solo in the midst of the last Dianne Reeves Gershwin song, “A Foggy Day.”
The only selection that seems to be giving in to the typical pops concert program is Faure’s Pavane. The rest of the program sparkles and jumps, and everyone seems to be having a terrific time, even some of the rather dour audience.  The two composers are among the most favorite of most listeners’ 20th century names, and the two more serious Ravel orchestral works fit in beautifully to the program.
Dianne Reeves has a powerful voice, which is sometimes needed to be heard over the very creative and swinging arrangements being played by the Berlin Philharmonic. She usually sings the entire opening verses, which are not often heard—the clever lyrics of Ira Gershwin. She also does a terrific bit of scatting on one of the tunes. Sometimes the camera looks like it is tracking right down into her ample vocal cords.  I was disappointed to be unable to find any credit for the arranger or arrangers of the Gershwin songs. Surely George hadn’t written versions for full symphony orchestra! And they’re just perfect — light, rich and swinging yet often complex — not in any way revealing that these musicians may be trying hard but just don’t know how to swing it, like some crossover attempts.
The Philharmonie is most impressive; must be one of the largest concert halls in the world.  Even the pipe organ in the corner looks a bit lost in the huge hall.  The image quality is superb—very close to Blu-ray.  And the stereo sound is clean and widerange. We knew those Germans could do up the tech side nicely, but may be surprised to find they can do such an energetic, styled-just-right pops concert!  Maybe it’s the conductor and vocalist.
—John Sunier

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