Ingrid Jacoby

Gershwin: Concerto in F; Bernstein: The Age of Anxiety

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The individual performances on this release, from Finland and featuring an American-British pianist with a Russian orchestra and conductor, are strong but not extraordinary. The Gershwin Piano Concerto in F has been given livelier jazz rhythms, although pianist Ingrid Jacoby and the Russian National Orchestra under Dmitry Liss deliver a clean, broad reading. Other performers, not least the composer himself, have gone further into the strangely questing, unsettled quality of Leonard Bernstein's Symphony No. 2, "The Age of Anxiety." The surprise of Bernstein's highly eclectic mixture, including jazz, twelve-tone technique, and a Mahlerian determination to encompass multiple musical perspectives, grafting all these onto a piano-and-orchestra format and a detailed musical program on top of that, must have been considerable in 1949, but it doesn't really come through here; neither Jacoby nor Liss captures Bernstein's flamboyance. Yet this release has something going for it that sets it apart from the competition: as they say in literature classes these days, the two works have something to say to each other. Gershwin and Bernstein aren't programmed together much, and they should be; Bernstein was in a way Gershwin's successor, and he offered a model for connecting American vernacular and concert traditions at a time when such connections were under attack from an entrenched modernist cabal. The contrast of the plucky jazz piano with the ponderous orchestra in the Bernstein comes out after hearing Gershwin in a way that it doesn't otherwise, and for this, along with excellent sound and engaging notes (in English only), the album merits recommendation.

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