Ulf Schlawinski / Walachowski Piano Duo

George Gerswin for Two Pianos

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Perhaps this German release represents an opposite pole to pianist Michel Camilo's heavily jazzed-up recording of Gershwin with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra -- Polish duo pianists and sisters Anna and Ines Walachowski deliver renderings of Gershwin that essentially remove the jazz content and make the Rhapsody in Blue sound, not so much like Chopin (which might have worked), but like Schumann. The two sisters are plainly superior duo pianists with a very precise ensemble sense, but the music on the album, for the most part, just doesn't have that swing. Plenty of pianists with straight classical backgrounds, some of them European, have played Gershwin very well. And the duo-piano format can work with his music, which stands up to many kinds of arrangements (although Gregory Stone's arrangement of the Three Preludes here makes those pieces awfully busy). Everything is note-perfect on this disc, but there's a tension in the Rhapsody in Blue and the lesser-known Rhapsody No. 2 that just feels odd, and the Cuban Overture doesn't sound Cuban in the least. The sisters do better on Percy Grainger's two-piano Fantasy on George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," which does some preliminary smoothing-out of the ground between Gershwin and the pure classical tradition. The Grainger work deserves to be better known as an early European appreciation of Gershwin, and its inclusion here is to be welcomed. Listeners who like the Gershwin evergreens performed on two pianos, however, might go back to the classic Gershwin recordings by Katia and Marielle Labèque.

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