Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
Suite for Piano, Strings and Harp (orch. Joseph Gianono)
Michel Camilo (piano)
BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin
DECCA 468 817-2
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|Any fan of Gershwin - especially his Piano Concerto and Cuban Overture who relishes the colour and vibrancy of South American music, be it Villa-Lobos or something more popular, should find themselves well served here. So too anyone who admires virtuoso piano-playing of a high order. If you need an intro to Camilo go to the last track Caribe is his signature tune; this one-and-only-take is hot!
Michel Camilo, born in Santo Domingo, begins his three-movement, 30-minute concerto with a suggestion of the great outdoors; the atmosphere is uniquely American, the space suggested is rocks, mountains and dusty trails (despite the composers marking of Religiosamente). Soloistic concerns are met by elaborate cadenzas, the jazz side of Camilos musical life is established though within a classical definition of structure. More lyrical expression belongs touchingly to the American sense of nostalgia. Harmonies and rhythms are individual and unpredictable, the strains of a laconic nightclub pianist are intimated; its all tightly considered. Wild West belongings are emphasised with the generous melody that blossoms at 710, something not too far from a Western film-score; I promise you itll float around your mind for hours. The blaze of pianistic display from 919, which starts the high-energy final sequence, is well suggested by the orange cover; theres plenty for the orchestra too.
OK, thats the first movement! The following Andante begins with a simple, rather Ravelian tune (think G major Concerto, slow movement) with some blues, solo decoration and full-throated symphony statement; muted trumpets add a distinctive voice. The Allegro finale resides in New York punchy, fleet, dynamic Mr Gershwins in town!
For the jazz-inspired suite, Camilo exchanges traditional Italian directions for
Tropical Jam, Tango for Ten, In Love, and Journey. After the bright and breezy opener - a winner on its own terms with some fabulous playing from Camilo comes a tango-allusive set-piece, inventively cross-referenced and contrasted (and originally written for ten pianos!). In Love is misty-eyed reflection in the early hours its mood derivation instantly recognisable but Camilo personalises it; the last movements excursion is multi-faceted and consistently inventive again Gershwin looks in, maybe quoted, (well, he had rhythm too!).
I hesitate to say these are definitive performances no doubt Camilo will play all this stuff differently next time; its a definitive recording though; in such scores, theres nobody better than Slatkin to get just the right orchestral response.
I think the best closing word is