I would have loved to have given a warm welcome
to what is the second Gershwin/Naxos disc issued by this team from Buffalo.
On their first CD (see review
the recording of the Gershwin Piano Concerto
Weiss again) was excellent without being a top choice. The two fillers
were first class, capturing the orchestra in a more relaxed mood with
everything brimming over with exuberance and life. Unfortunately, I
find the execution on this follow-up album to be smooth, bland and too
laid-back for its own good.
Strike up the Band
gets things underway with a fine swing but
nobody will buy this CD for the sake of an overture. It’s best
to look elsewhere for Rhapsody in Blue
and Catfish Row
Admittedly, the recording sounds superb throughout and individual solos
from the ranks of the orchestra are well up to scratch but there seems
to be an alarming lack of bite and enthusiasm. It’s incredibly
lush and soupy but just too safe.
In my review of the Piano Concerto
I made the point that the
soloist, Orion Weiss, has a special gift of making you listen to what
he has to say. His perfect technique is there to serve the music and
he doesn’t use it to browbeat the audience. In Rhapsody in
he takes the same kind of approach but a touch of browbeating
wouldn’t have gone amiss quite honestly. The playing lacks pace
and energy. The opening clarinet solo is excellent but then things get
seriously bogged down. With a timing of 18:28 it seems to go on forever
and all the biting, jazzy edge has been removed. This music can speak
for itself without too much interpretation. Weiss is continually slowing
the phrases down to the point of becoming boring. I much prefer the
original orchestration as recorded by Donohoe/Rattle on EMI (16:02).
That just explodes into the room.
(also known as Walking the Dog
) is a delicious
little piece, featuring the expert clarinet playing of John Fullam.
This is a good performance but maybe it’s best to search out Slatkin’s
splendid Vox recording which is coupled to a brilliant version of the
with soloist Jeffrey Siegel.
Straight after the delightful Promenade
, Catfish Row
back into something of a stupor. Porgy and Bess
is classic American
music with an underlying jazz influence. Here we have an orchestra playing
in the style of a group of starchy Europeans who don’t quite get
the idiom. The whole interpretation needs more adrenalin and fire. Even
the banjo player struggles to make a mark. Gershwin has written some
fine music but it requires some real American flair and an “in
your face” presentation for it to fully engage the listener. The
music as presented here sounds safe and dull. In summary this is a really
disappointing follow-up disc from the Buffalo Philharmonic. Even the
playing time is less than generous.
See also review by Brian