The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (167): Gershwin, the man himself

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (167): Gershwin, the man himself


norman lebrecht

August 29, 2020


Beat that.


  • fflambeau says:

    He was an excellent pianist and an incredible composer. Maybe Bernstein was the closest thing to him.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    That old MTT recording of Rhapsody In Blue using Gershwin’s piano roll is a killer diller! Hear it if you can!

  • Edgar Self says:

    There’s no substitute for hearing Gershwin himself, talking, playing, and introducing his songs from old radio: ‘This is George Gershwin. The boys and I would like to play for you a song I wrote … “.. The nearest I got to him was seeing Paul Whiteman tooling up Broad Street in Philadelphia in an open sports-car that was much too small or him.

    MTT with Gershwin’s piano roll is uncanny,recalling Percy Grainger’s Grieg comcerto, andMahler’s of his Lied with superimposed voice. The rolls of Scriabin, Lhevinne, Rosenthal, Cortot, Landowska, Elly Ney, Nyiregihazi, and Rachaninoff are very credible compared with some of their waxings. Busoni’s that I’ve are disappointing, but his acetate Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13, even abbreviated, is not.

    Oscar Levant and Earl Wild are in the running with Gershwin. Does anyone remember Jesus Maria Sanroma’s “Rhapsody in Blue with Fiedler and the Boston Pops? Even Richter recorded Concerto in F,live, I think with Eschenbach.

    • Minnesota says:

      The MTT Rhapsody in Blue recording illustrates the problems of taking piano rolls literally. According to the great pianist Earl Wild, who knew Gershwin casually and heard him play, the playback speed was manipulated to be much faster than Gershwin actually played and was therefore fraudulent. (In Wild’s memoir, “A Walk on the Wild Side”) Michael Feinstein worked for Ira Gershwin as his assistant for several years. In his book “The Gershwins and Me” Feinstein wrote that Ira–who knew George very, very well–said that George NEVER played the Rhapsody at anything like the tempo in the MTT recording, which he described as a “stunt.”

    • David K. Nelson says:

      And even Oscar Levant’s mother thought it was bad for his reputation as a serious pianist to be playing the Rhapsody in Blue as often as he did. Levant wrote that it became a private joke between Gershwin and himself that his mother would sigh “again the Rhapsody.” Even stranger than knowing Richter recorded the Concerto is to learn that Rudolf Serkin recommended it to his pupils as a piece they had darn well better learn, even if it is nearly impossible to imagine Serkin playing it himself. (I suspect the great trumpet teachers also make sure their best and most promising pupils are well prepared to play that glorious solo).

      I am glad you mentioned Jesús María Sanromá, Edgar, as there is a once-famous name which is on the brink of disappearing, which is odd and sad given his talent and his pedigree of having worked with Cortot and Schnabel after graduating from the NE Conservatory. He gave important first performances of many works while official pianist for the Boston Symphony (and thus, also the Boston Pops), recorded the Paderewski Concerto with Fiedler in sessions that the elderly Paderewski attended (something RCA Victor made sure to remind folks of when Fiedler and Earl Wild recorded it in stereo with the London Symphony), and he and Fiedler were the first to record the MacDowell Concerto #2. Yet when I started collecting records I think the only Sanromá recording that you ever saw in stores was the Ferde Grofé Concerto, not perhaps a work to keep a reputation alive, nor a work to hold a reputation as a “Gershwin specialist” at arm’s length. Then RCA started one of its Heifetz Collection projects and revived the wonderful recording from 78s of the Chausson Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet.

  • Janet says:

    Love Gershwin. Hershey Felder does an excellent program on Gershwin. You really believe he is him.

  • Edgar Self says:

    A traveller told me the conservatory in Jesus Maria Sanroma’s native Puerto Rio is now named for him. David Nelson names several Sanroma recordings I shouldhave remembered, especially of Chausson’s rhapsodie “Concert” that shis teeaacher Cortot also recorded; and Paderewski’s concerto with the former Polish premier in attendance at the recording sessions, which I didn’t know before.

    I remember a fine Mendelssohn G-minor concerto to rival Ania Dormann’s and Moiseiwitsch’s, with two exquisige Songs Without Words, “Tarantella” and “Duetto” as fill-ups.

    William Corbett Jones loves to tell a story ofArthur Fiedler and Sanroma recording RCA’s album “The Heart of the Piano Concerto”, and Fiedler saying after one, “Jesus Maria!, we really cut the heart out of that concerto, Sanroma.”