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Gershwin: Porgy & Bess [With Members of the Original Cast] Cast Recording

3.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Cast Recording, April 28, 1992
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 28, 1992)
  • Original Release Date: April 28, 1992
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Cast Recording
  • Label: Broadway MCA
  • ASIN: B000002OJM
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,699 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By John W. Cotner on July 12, 2003
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
this old recording, dating back to the late 30's, has poorer sound quality than later versions of P&B. it is tinny, with greater reliance on brass and horns and more tin-pan-alleyish and jazzy than later versions. however, that confirms its authentic charm and recommends its purchase.
perhaps the show did not take its subject matter so seriously initially and that is what gershwin meant to convey. it was a "blacker" show than later versions which have been more obsessed with the music's operatic quality and whitewashing the dialect and other things too politically incorrect and sensitive for today's musical producers and audiences. for that reason alone, the original show is worth getting.
this recording is interesting from a historical perspective because, as the first version of P&B, it is presumably the most indicative of what gershwin envisioned, and it is interesting to see how he originally arranged and orchestrated the songs and what was later added or changed in more recent versions.
the songs in this original version are nowhere near as lush or orchestrated as in the 1950's movie version (unavailable on cd, unfortunately...) or the more bombastic, ponderous houston opera and british versions from the late 80's and early 90's (you can have those...).
one advantage of this original score (and of the unavailable movie version...) is that it is a neat, short package of all the P&B songs, unlike the later two operas which have multiple cds and are tedious to listen to, with extended dialogue and orchestral bridges. you can listen to this one in an hour and get the full flavor of the show.
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Format: Audio CD
Many people think OKLAHOMA! was the first (american) original cast album - the British had been making cast albums since the days of World War I - but in fact Decca had started the practice a few years earlier offering album sets of songs from movies (THE WIZARD OF OZ, HOLIDAY INN) and Broadway shows (PANAMA HATTIE, THIS IS THE ARMY.)

In 1940 the label issued an album of four 12-inch records containing some of the key songs from Gershwin's folk opera. The reunited two of the original cast stars, Todd Duncan and Anne Brown and the original conductor from the 1935 Broadway permiere. It wasn't completely authentic since they did not use the full cast.(Eg. Todd Duncan sing's Sportin' Life's song "It Ain't Necessarily So" on this set.)

In 1942 Cheryl Crawford produced a Broadwy revival but changed PORGY into a more traditional musical play by eliminating the operatic recitative and changing it to spoekn dialogue. Decca took advantage of this to offer up PORGY AND BESS - Volume Two, a set of three 10-inch records capturing some of the songs left out of the first album.

Those two sets were later combined onto an LP which was somewhat incorrectly labeled "original Broadway cast recording." Nevertheless it's as close to the OC as we'll ever get.

Here it is in a beautiful CD remastering that sounds far better than the old fake stereo Lps that were in gereral circulation from 1959 until the end of the Lp era. Yes, they are trims in some of the numbers and the sound is not exactly high fidelity.

PORGY finally got a more complete recording by Columbia Records in 1951 (and that is out on the Masterworks Heritage label) as well as three note-complete opera recordings (London, RCA and EMI ... the RCA set is the best of the three.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Porgy and Bess was originally staged as musical theater, with a tough schedule; and concessions were made to preserve the perfomers' voices. The concessions, (cuts mostly) kept it completely unpretentious. And of course it was under Gershwin's supervision. I find it much more satisfying than the more "grandly operatic" versions; and Todd Duncan is unequaled. The finale when Porgy sets out in his goat cart to find Bess is a heartbreaker, unequaled by any other version.

Sound is better than the badly remastered MCA CD of the early 80's (?).

EDIT: I used mouse wheel without reclicking, and rolled the stars choice down. IT SHOULD BE FIVE STARS.
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Format: Audio CD
This has always been a wonderful collection with (mostly) the original cast. The confusion with who sings what is due to the fact that it is a compilation of two 78 rpm sets- a 1940 Decca set with Anne Brown singing the roles of Bess, Clara and Serena with Todd Duncan singing the roles of Porgy, Crown and Sportin' Life, interspersed with a second Decca collection from 1942 with members of the Cheryl Crawford revival doing the additional existing tracks. Still and all, a wonderful compilation.

Where this CD release errs, however, is in the fact that the selections have been remastered a half-tone or so lower than the original recordings, making it tough to listen to. Also, the single bonus track is from a six-side Decca collection by Avon Long and Helen Dowdy, all of which could have easily fitted on this CD. Happily, Naxos(UK) has seen to this omission. The source material for their release is from original 78's and the remastering may not sound as clean as the MCA remaster, but it is at the correct speed, and their 2CD release contains all six sides from the Long/Dowdy set, along with many other early PORGY sides. For obvious reasons, it's only available through UK outlets like Naxos UK or Amazon UK, but well worth the investment.
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