José Serebrier conducts Historic Gershwin Centennial Edition recording – including An American in Paris, with Leopold Godowsky III in the Piano Concerto [Somm]

4 of 5 stars

An American in Paris
Three Preludes*
Piano Concerto in F

*Orchestrated & edited by José Serebrier

Leopold Godowsky III (piano)

Royal Scottish National Orchestra
José Serebrier

Recorded 30 & 31 July 1998 in Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: December 2018
Duration: 67 minutes



George Gershwin (1898-1937) was short-lived, his sister Frances (1906-99) quite the reverse (their brother Ira too), and it was her phone-call to José Serebrier in the year of George’s anniversary that initiated this Centennial Edition recording, first-released on Dinemec Classics and now, twenty years later, reissued on Somm, also calling upon Serebrier to orchestrate the Three Preludes and the Lullaby.

The disc’s contents are listed as ordered, but the place to start is with the Preludes, which make an easy transfer from piano to ensemble in Serebrier’s stylish and idiomatic scoring, kaleidoscopically colourful – dance-band-meets-symphony-orchestra – in the outer numbers, and especially affecting in the central one, dreamy and nocturnal, tinted duskily; and the addition of woodwinds (including suave saxophone) to Gershwin’s strings in Lullaby is nicely imagined, a gentle lilt pervasive and, at the midpoint, some of the composer’s most-tender and haunting music.

The soloist in the Piano Concerto is Frances’s son, Leopold Godowsky III – she married Leopold Godowsky Junior – and he, the Third, proves to be a considerate and virtuoso pianist, insouciant, debonair and dashing if a little smudgy at times, and naturally balanced too, so as to allow plenty of orchestra through, pianist and conductor conspiring a spacious, detail-conscious, pragmatic account that melds jazz and eloquent lyricism as-one into the traditional three-movement format, American new-wave meets European foundation. The only place to end is with An American in Paris, an imperishable masterpiece, here perfectly paced, vivid and poised, the various episodes fully versed and also integrated into a symphonic whole.

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