The Bernstein and Gershwin Connection

Perhaps Gershwin's Concerto for Piano and Trumpet is one of the composer's capstone concert works. Advocates over the latter 20th Century have helped insure its place in the repertoire. Rodrigues and Smeets have adapted their performance here from the original score. Allowing for the solo part to lay well against the orchestral reduction. The percussion, arranged by Thomas Schindl, draw from that as well with some additional material to add flair and rhythmic drive. This is especially true in the central movement where mallet percussion comes to the foreground more. But, the stage belongs here to both Rodrigues and Smeets.

Both pianists prove to be superb interpreters of this music with a great match of interpretation and style that carries through these works. The careful dramatic flair added for the pieces also makes them engaging performances that draw out as much nuance as precision. The pianos are set up across the sound spectrum for a sense of who is on each "side" of the imaging here with the percussion across the "back" of the sound picture. That helps provide a proper balance ambience to the performances captured here. The virtuosic playing is on display throughout with the percussion having a bit more opportunity to shine in the Bernstein. The result is a recording that brings together accessible music in performances that capture the spirit of these familiar works.

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Piano virtuoso Eliane Rodrigues returns with her latest Navona Records release, The Gershwin & Bernstein Connection, a new look at timeless pieces by legendary American composers. Together with talented artists including her daughter, pianist Nina Smeets, Rodrigues performs Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue', an arrangement of symphonic dances from Bernstein's 'West Side Story' and Gershwin's 'Concerto in F'...

I've lost count of the number of classical albums in my music library that include 'Rhapsody in Blue'. For me, it's become a track I no longer enjoy... I've heard it so many times that it has become rather dull and flat.

What I totally loved about The Gershwin & Bernstein Connection is that it takes familiar and often done to death pieces and presents them in a way that is impossible to ignore. On this recording 'Rhapsody in Blue' feels as fresh and captivating as it did the first time I heard it.

It's obvious that not only are the performers having a ball and really getting a kick out of working together, but that they are totally in love with the pieces they are playing. 'Concerto in F - Allegro' is a particularly energetic and frenetic piece and the barely noticeable stumbles help to make this sound raw and almost spontaneous. Likewise, the 'Symphonic Dances from West Side Story' sound contemporary and very fresh.

It's a bold and very brave individual who would tackle these well known pieces and "dare" to put their own spin on them. For me, this has made me appreciate the originals even more. These new recordings are not to be missed.

Darren Rea



These arrangements for two pianos and percussion manage to retain the colour, verve and emotional heights of the iconic originals. Who needs an orchestra? (MB) ****