Jascha Heifetz asked George Gershwin to compose a violin work, but the composer's early death prevented what would no doubt have been a fruitful collaboration. Whether Alexander Courage's 'Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra on "Porgy and Bess"' is "as close as we can get to the violin concerto Gershwin never wrote," as Joshua Bell says, is certainly a point for debate. Courage, composer of the original 'Star Trek' theme, was asked by conductor John Williams to assemble the fantasy and the result is a showpiece for violin which uses eight songs from 'Porgy and Bess.' The work is a successful vehicle for the soloist: Bell's Stradivarius sings as he glides through the passagework with ease.
GERSHWIN FANTASY also includes Heifetz's violin-piano arrangement of Gershwin's 'Three Preludes for Piano' and new violin-orchestra arrangements of six more Gershwin tunes. The song arrangements, two by Jonathan Tunick and the rest by William David Brohn, are nicely varied and allow Gershwin and Bell equal footing. Gershwin himself makes an appearance in "Sweet and Low-Down": the arrangement includes a piano roll the composer made of the tune.