Various Artists

Gershwin: An American in Paris; Rhapsody in Blue; Catfish Row; Cuban Overture

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In terms of repertoire, what we have here are Leonard Slatkin's 1987 recordings of Gershwin's An American in Paris, Catfish Row, and Lullaby, plus André Previn's 1980 recording Cuban Overture and Peter Donohoe's 1987 recording of Rhapsody in Blue. In terms of quality, what we have here are four fairly lackadaisical performances and one exciting but eccentric performance. Slatkin and the Saint Louis Orchestra had previously turned in tepid performances of this repertoire in 1975 for Vox, and their 1987 EMI remakes are no more interesting or involving. As he had in his recordings of contemporary American orchestral composers, Slatkin favored smooth textures, blended colors, and solid tempos, and his interpretations are stolid and dependable, but not especially engaged or engaging. Previn's Cuban Overture is more vivacious, with much more spirited playing from the London Symphony, but ultimately it still sounds as shallow as Slatkin's performances, only noisier. Donohoe's Rhapsody in Blue is bright and sassy, with plenty of virtuosity, and his accompaniment by the London Symphony matches him for humor and energy. For some listeners at the time, this rollicking Rhapsody held its own with the great Rhapsodies of the past; for others, it was a Rhapsody more gaudy than bright and more arch than sassy. But most listeners ultimately agreed that compared with Gershwin's own incomparably infectious piano roll recording, this Rhapsody is merely idiosyncratic. EMI's early digital sound varies from the soft-focused Saint Louis recordings to the hard-edged London recordings.

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