Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Piano Concerto in F
Rhapsody in Blue
An American in Paris

Daniel Blumenthal piano
English Chamber Orchestra
Steuart Bedford conductor
Recorded All Saintsí Tooting, April 1983
EMI Classics for Pleasure 724357494427 [71.44] Superbudget

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These were widely admired performances when Classics for Pleasure first issued them in 1983 and so they remain. Blumenthal had to compete with the Previn/LSO recording of 1971, as well as the Bernstein. Today the field is huge and Earl Wild looms as large as ever in this repertoire. Nevertheless the reasons for Blumenthal and Bedfordís return to the catalogue in this super-budget issue are not hard to find. There is a clear-sighted, entirely plausible finesse to the playing which never slides into the slick and certainly never descends to the blowsily self-indulgent. It is subtle playing, less obviously jazzy than Previnís, less prone to Bernsteinís self-absorption, more concentrated on filigree passagework, clarity of articulation and to making its points through musical acuity.

This is not to say that its reserve is unidiomatic Ė on the contrary. These are highly winning performances and worthy of an eminent place in anyoneís estimation. Blumenthalís subtlety never conceals an authentic approach to the music that is both rhythmically pointed and flexible. The passagework and rhythmic sensitivity in Rhapsody in Blue are as admirable as Blumenthalís reluctance to indulgence its big tune. In the Concerto in F, maybe marginally the less successful of his two performances, Blumenthal still offers a lesson in musical objectivity harnessed to technical and expressive skills. The piece emerges strengthened as a result. Bedford accompanies well Ė at the time this was seen as a most unlikely combination of talents but the big band ECO work well and if Bedfordís An American in Paris lacks the bustling swagger of his rivals it loses nothing in clarity and detail. At this price though the disc is every bit as desirable now as it was back in 1983.

Jonathan Woolf

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