Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; An American in Paris
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'Previn's [performance of the Concerto] has great virtues; the touching solo playing at the end of the slow movement, for example, and the tremendous virtuosity of the LSO in the finale … A splendid performance of An American in Paris, full of virtuoso playing and of real character.' - GRAMOPHONE
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This CD is one of my favorites. I recommend Previn's version, he is an underrated pianist and plays superbly on this record. In the 1960s and 1970s he was a great conductor and made several definitive recordings. Previn and the LSO were great together. On this album they attack Rhapsody in Blue with flair and gusto. The LSO was an orchestra that could play anything. In the 1970s they recorded the Star Wars soundtracks.
My parents owned a 1950s vinyl recording featuring the Hamburg Philharmonia Orchestra. Hans Jurgen Walther was the conductor and David Haines was the pianist. It was a very powerful and energetic performance. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s I heard this recording regularly and for me it became the definitive version. Unfortunately you cannot buy this recording on CD.
In 1973 I bought a nine minute jazz-rock version by Eumir Deodato, a Brazilian arranger, who had worked with Frank Sinatra. Deodato hired the cream of the New York session community and also great jazz musicians like Billy Cobham (drums) and Stanley Clarke (bass). His recording, with a driving rhythm section, really rocked. An abbreviated version even made the Billboard singles chart and reached #41. This is still an exciting and fun interpretation.
In 1974 my music teacher played me the Bernstein version. I was surprised to find out later on, that this is many people's favorite version. I was not impressed, to me it just seemed wrong. The tempo was too slow and Bernstein's piano playing was tentative and lacked aggression. I still have no idea who David Haines was, but he seemed a much better pianist than Bernstein. Ultimately it is all a matter of taste. I bought the Bernstein CD a few years ago and it still sounds slow and the New York Philharmonic was also surprisingly underwhelming. I would stick with Previn and the LSO.