1960, Music

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Concerto in F (1960, 200?) by Various Artists

I’ve heard the Bernstein “Rhapsody” before, and I still like it perhaps more than any other version. His version of An American in Paris is also good. Don’t really know why the Concerto features Andre Previn instead, but it’s also a good version. If I didn’t like the music so much, I’d probably be annoyed about the different performers, because it remains an idiotic thing to package a composer’s music with different interpretations on the same release (unless, of course, it was the same piece).

7/10

Rhapsody in Blue (10/10)

I cannot be objective about what is one of my favourite pieces of music of the 20th century.

I don’t think it’s jazz or even remotely close to my idea of jazz. I don’t like it because of that.

Rather I like it because of how embraces ideas from jazz to make orchestral music more interesting and dare I say “better”. The music wails and swoons in ways which “classical” music never did before. Compare this to any European composer’s “jazz-inspired” music and this will always win.

It is a uniquely American piece that is far more compelling and alive than anything Copland did later.

An American in Paris (8/10)

This feels a lot like the more “European” counterpart to Gershwin’s greatest piece of music and I must say I get some severe musical deja vu at times.

But, in the right hands, it’s still a very vibrant and very American piece of orchestral music that I find exciting and stirring whenever I listen to it.

If it is Rhapsody in Blue Part 2: Paris, it’s still a pretty good sequel. (I am a bit of a sucker for this kind of thing, though.)

Concerto in F (8/10)

Note: on this release this is weirdly performed by a different orchestra and conductor because, why not?

Though it lacks the initial appeal to my ears of Rhapsody in Blue this is, evidently, the more sophisticated piece of music. (Though apparently it wasn’t quite given that due at the time, at least by many critics.)

I am, at bottom, a music naif. I cannot play an instrument and I cannot write music. I only know what I hear or read and I only know about artistic “progress” in music through reading a lot of criticism and history and from listening to perhaps just a bit too much music.

From that, I can say this is the least engaging, to me, of Gershwin’s major ’20s orchestral works. It’s the least immediate, anyway.

But everything I’ve read suggests it’s actually his best, at least from a “classical” perspective. I am open to that interpretation because, I said, I’m a naif, and I prefer to defer to authority when I feel really out of my depth, as I do with the idea that this is “more sophisticated” than one of my favourite pieces of music of the ’20s.

All that said, it’s still an impressive thing. And I think that, had I been unaware of Rhapsody in Blue when I first heard this, I probably would have liked this a whole lot.

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