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My favorite Gershwin performances (Videos)

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:

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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.

Krystian Zimerman

Seymour Bernstein:

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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!

LINK:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/irina-morozova-pianist-shines-playing-gershwin-virtuoso-transcriptions-on-cd/

George Gershwin, George Gershwin piano rolls, George Gershwin Prelude no. 2, George Gershwin Preludes 1 to 3, George Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, Hoagie Carmichael, Hoagy Carmichael, piano, player piano, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, wordpress.com, Yamaha Disklavier, Yeol Eum Son, you tube, you tube video

George Gershwin’s Prelude no. 2, and the retirement home circuit (Videos)

When I did my retirement home tours, feisty tunes were more well-received than the melancholy Prelude no. 2 in C# minor. Everybody knew Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” plus a truckload of Hoagy Carmichael favorites.

So, looking back, I should have thought twice about featuring this musical gem as my opener. (as lackluster as it was without color coating at the time)

About Prelude #2:

Published in 1927, the work was first performed by George Gershwin in a concert at the Hotel Roosevelt in New York City. A challenge to play, it doesn’t fit easily under the fingers because of large note spans, and it requires a tasteful amount of tempo rubato of a bluesy, moody character.

Part of a Prelude trio, the composition is framed by the more spirited #1 and #3.

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Try romancing the over 75 crowd with a somber tune of obscure identity and you’re not going to get a call back anytime soon.

Inevitably, the old folks gave a shout out for “Edelweiss” and the complete Sound of Music medley. Next on the charts was “Bicycle Built for Two,” followed by “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

“Stardust” and “Skylark” were big winners, along with “Heart and Soul.”

But if the piano bench ate into sacred dining room table space, there were grave consequences. I can’t forget the day I tumbled into the lap of a wheelchair bound resident who promptly opted out of lunch, taking her place mat with her.

Others turned down their hearing aids below O frequency.

A few at the homey ranch-style facility were more respectful.

“Hans” and “Kirsten” greeted me warmly whenever I turned up for my monthly gig at Paradise Found Retirement. Ironically, Hans had been a Basso Profundo in the Berlin Opera during the war years, and his wife, whom he met in Norway, was herself an accomplished pianist who lived across the street from the country’s celebrated composer, Edvard Grieg.

In the presence of this acculturated pair, my 40′s jam session quickly morphed into a full fledged Classical concert, that is, after most diners had retired to their rooms to freshen up before BINGO.

And that reminds me of the gig I did over at Carrington Point before the piano crumbled under my fingers. The sad circumstance of a Young Chiang with blank and chipped notes, forced me to haul my digital keyboard and other gear a considerable distance. Thankfully, the booking was short-lived.

So I could say with confidence, that residents at the POINT who were walker-bound and accompanied by nurses’ aides, liked Gershwin’s Prelude no. 2. In fact, the last I’d heard, some were asking after me, hoping I would come back to do an afternoon of George G., playing all THREE preludes.

Unfortunately, I never returned, though I recorded some tunes for the old folks and sent them along on a cassette.

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Finally, this writing would be undeserving of praise without sharing two riveting Gershwin performances:

Yeol Eum Son plays George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.”

Irina Morozova delivers a sizzling “I Got Rhythm!”