Pascal Rogé / Bertrand de Billy

Gershwin: An American in Paris; Rhapsody in Blue; Ravel: Concerto pour la main gauche

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European performers have cottoned to the fact that Gershwin and Ravel make a good pairing on disc: they knew each other and liked each other's music, and Ravel understood jazz better than any of his contemporaries, with the possible exception of Kurt Weill. The booklet for this German release goes on to sketch out a list of similarities between the two that reads like something out of Ripley's Believe It or Not: they both died of brain diseases in 1937, both were snappy dressers and players who never married, both smoked, and so on. Gershwin asked Ravel to take him on as a student, but was turned down with the now-classic question, "You're already a first-rate Gershwin? Why would you want to be a second-rate Ravel?" The Ravel Concerto for the left hand, composed in 1930, is ideal as a counterpoint to Rhapsody in Blue; it may be Ravel's jazziest work, and it similarly relies on sweeping piano figures juxtaposed with busier orchestral passages into which the piano is woven. The two works are separated by Gershwin's An American in Paris, given a peppy reading here by the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Vienna. The Viennese musicians seem a little less comfortable with the Rhapsody in Blue, although pianist Pascal Rogé gives attractive, tuneful but not oversentimental readings of both Gershwin's Rhapsody and the Concerto for the left hand. Clear SACD sound (sampled on a good conventional stereo) with impressive dynamic range from Oehms is another plus; the opening passages of the Ravel will show off the powers of good stereo equipment, and the kaleidoscopic quality of An American in Paris comes through in full. Not a definitive recording of any of the works involved, but a convincing whole.

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