Transatlantic: Gershwin, Varèse, Stravinsky is a thought-provoking exploration by Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, concerning certain crosscurrents in modernism which traveled from Europe to the United States and back again through these representative works. Several young composers of the 1920s and 30s traveled to Europe to study the western classical tradition, primarily in France, and George Gershwin's An American in Paris suggests his eagerness to acquire European sophistication and technical skills while retaining the unique character of American popular music. (The selection of this work was likely inspired by the unverified anecdote of Gershwin seeking lessons from Maurice Ravel, only to be told, "Why would you want to be a second-rate Ravel when you can be a first-rate Gershwin?"). Both the abridged and complete critical editions of An American in Paris are given their world premieres in this double-disc package, and while the score includes plenty of evocative sound effects, like the famous Parisian taxi horns, the music is distinctly American in its dance rhythms and blues-inflected melodies. Pointing in the opposite direction across the Atlantic, Edgard Varèse's Amériques is a massive, exotic, and often violent tone poem that evokes not only the hubbub of his adopted New York City (note the frequent sirens) but also the mystery and danger of the jungles of Latin America. Indeed, while composing Amériques, Varèse had several Americas in mind, including those of the imagination. Igor Stravinsky's Symphony in C, which he began in France and Switzerland, and completed in the United States during his emigration process, is a cultural bridge that transcends the oceanic divide in its abstraction and brings formal Classical ideals into the modernist mix. The CSO's performances are solid and detail-oriented, though Langrée makes the most of the works' large forms and expansiveness in his phrasing, and taps into the orchestra's volatile energy and expressiveness to make the music more accessible, even the wildly adventurous Amériques.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Symphony in C|
Track Listing - Disc 2