Surfing the Internet, I discovered four inspired readings of my favorite Gershwin selections. These included performances of “I Got Rhythm,” the three piano Preludes and Rhapsody in Blue. (I’ve already regaled Yeol Eum Son’s riveting “Embraceable You” in a few previous blogs)
First, Irina Morozova delivers a show-stopping, “I Got Rhythm,” track 13 of Gershwin Virtuoso Transcriptions:
Seymour Bernstein, Krystian Zimerman, Leonard Bernstein, and Irina Morozova are in their own unique category, having re-awakened the composer’s spirit with styled sensitivity. The rubato of the era, in a merged jazz, classical, impressionist language is what is so captivating.
Zimerman and Seymour Bernstein really get it, with the Preludes. The first and third are so characteristically jazzy, but can’t be banged out without nuance, dynamics, and taking a bit of reasonable liberty. Just staying within a strict rhythmic frame won’t capture the fancy free space the composer afforded in his music. There’s room for give and take which is the soloist’s opportunity to be creative and compelling. Tone color changes, phrasing, and tasteful rubato (flexible time) make one reading shine over another.
In Prelude 2, which is by contrast, a melancholic lullaby, Zimerman and Bernstein immerse the listener in a hypnotic trance from which they are barely released in the final measure as two notes divinely dissolve in a telling harmonic 7th relationship.
Zimerman tends to rush a tad in the middle section, however, which has a built in cello solo, (some players cross the hands) whereas Seymour Bernstein milks it and is in no haste to wind back to the opening. The recap is stunningly magical.
In the same vein, Leonard Bernstein shines playing the Rhapsody in Blue as he conducts from the piano in a concert that took place in 1976 at the Royal Albert Hall. It’s like he had shared DNA with the composer, knowing genetically want he wanted to say.
Words cannot amply describe Lenny’s talent. What a shame, however, that the You Tube video was cut off only minutes from the climactic ending, leaving the listener musically frustrated.
In any case, his performance as well as those critiqued provided the inspiration I needed to touch off a New Year!