Orion Weiss / JoAnn Falletta / Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

Gershwin: Concerto in F; Rhapsody No. 2; I Got Rhythm Variations

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Even without the Rhapsody in Blue, and even with the comparatively rarely heard Rhapsody No. 2 for piano and orchestra, there is absolutely no shortage of recordings of the music on this Naxos release. But it merits strong consideration from Gershwin fans, and not only for its budget price. The chief attraction is the Concerto in F, which pianist Orion Weiss and conductor JoAnn Falletta approach less as a cousin to the Rhapsody in Blue than as the most elaborate development of Gershwin's purely classical side. He set out to write a work in classical three-movement concerto form but actually achieved something slightly different: a group of unique ways of developing jazz- and blues-flavored material. The restrained, almost deliberate approach offered by Weiss and Falletta runs counter to type for Gershwin but brings out many small details in the concerto. It works a bit less well in the brash, cinematic Rhapsody No. 2 (the work, originally entitled "Rhapsody in Rivets," was written for a film soundtrack), but in the final I Got Rhythm Variations all the forces loosen up a bit, in keeping with the quasi-improvisatory nature of the work, and the variations make a satisfying finale. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is sharp throughout, with a brass section that responds well to the rhythmic qualities of Gershwin's scores, and the bright, spacious sound environment of the orchestra's Kleinhans Concert Hall home base is another plus. You can never have too many fresh, accurately executed Gershwin recordings.

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