The music brought together on this album represents many of the most popular of George Gershwin’s creations. Earl Wild’s Virtuoso Etudes are transcriptions of some of the most beloved Gershwin songs of the early American theatre. These, along with Wild’s “Fantasy on Porgy and Bess,” and Gershwin’s own arrangement of “Rhapsody In Blue,” trace Gershwin’s evolution from a commercially successful song writer to a composer of serious intent who was quite conscious of his posterity.
The songs “I Got Rhythm” and “Embraceable You” (from the 1930 show “Girl Crazy”), as well as “The Man I Love” and “Fascinating Rhythm” (written for “Lady Be Good” of 1924), were conceived for a musical theatre which had yet to achieve its current level of sophistication. There was no real relationship between the songs used and the narrative of the show (songs were, in fact, often used interchangeably). The American musical theatre as we know it today, a synthesis of music, dialogue and song (much like early German comic opera), was foreshadowed in Showboat, but really only came to maturity with the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
“Rhapsody In Blue” (1924) and the opera Porgy and Bess (1935), on the other hand, were written for a concert audience by a self-conscious Gershwin who wanted to legitimize American music. Often doubting his own abilities, Gershwin, at one point, felt compelled to approach Maurice Ravel for lessons in “serious” composition. Instead, Gershwin received the famous reply:
“Why would you want to be a second-rate Ravel
when you are already a first-rate Gershwin?”
Gershwin’s larger purpose in these works was to establish the credibility of jazz (and hence his own credibility), as music worthy of the concert hall and opera house.
“Rhapsody In Blue” was conceived with the idea of correcting a misconception on the part of the American audience. While the word “jazz” implies to modern listeners a widely varied brand of music, in Gershwin’s day the name implied little more than syncopation. For the critics of jazz, this meant rhythmic monotony. It was Gershwin’s desire to demonstrate that jazz rhythms could be more flexible, as varied as those of concert music; the result has been a staple of the concert hall ever since.
The creation of Porgy and Bess took several years of planning and two years of active composition (as opposed to the three weeks which produced “Rhapsody In Blue”). Gershwin was now concerned with a wider variety of aesthetic questions: How to make jazz seem a natural musical language for opera singers? How to use a libretto which required a predominantly Black cast? How to avoid the strong emotional associations of Black spirituals? Use only original music (although cast in the form of hymns or spirituals)? What to do with the dialogue of the White characters? Have it spoken while the Black dialogue continues in musical recitative? Gershwin’s success with the difficult aesthetic questions was sufficient to eventually find his opera staged at La Scala.
With both “Rhapsody In Blue” and Porgy and Bess now firmly established in the mainstream repertoire, Gershwin’s presence in the world of “Classical” music is now permanent. Still, the larger question remains — are these works “serious” compositions, or are they “popular” music in concert attire? While this question may be indicative of the confusion of the “post-modern” world. it seems doubly perplexing with the output of Gershwin. “Rhapsody In Blue” has, after all, been accepted into “serious” concert repertoire because it is so “popular” with audiences. Is the song “Summertime” somehow a more “serious” work than the song “I Got Rhythm” because it was conceived as part of a full opera? Indeed, Porgy and Bess was criticized for being not a “true” opera, but rather a collection of songs (to which Gershwin replied: “so was Carmen”).
Total time: 00:48:53
|Original Recording Format|
Bruce Brown – Puget Sound Studios analog to High definition digital
This recording took place in December 1992 at Symphony Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. The hall is noted for its clean acoustics, linear reverberation, and mid-range focus. As in most other Wilson Audio chamber and solo piano recordings, the perspective is close . . . as though the instruments are performing in your listening room.The piano is a nine-foot Falcone— an instrummt of unusual beauty in its harmonic richness as well as its left hand power.A spaced pair of omni-directional Schoeps microphones were used. This configuration yields a superbly accurate presentation of harmonics, timbres, and dynamics.The microphone preamps, designed and built by John Curl, are sophisticated, fully class A, direct-coupled units.
The master tape was recorded on the UltramasterTM, Wilson Audio’s exclusive 30 ips analog recorder. This instrument, designed and built by John Curl, is fully direct-coupled, and exhibits a record/playback Frequency bandwidth of over 45 KHz. 3M 996 mastering tape was used. Location monitoring was on a pair of Wilson WATT III/ Puppy II precision loudspeakers powered by a Spectral DMA-80 amplifier. At Wilson Audio, master tapes, and refs were evaluated on both the WATT/Puppy and on the WAMM series VII, powered by a variety of amplifiers including Mark Levinson, Audio Research, Krell, Spectral, Jadis, Rowland and Audio Note. Excellent compatibility was realized with all of these designs.This recording was made and mastered using the multi-patented CVT (Constant Velocity Transmission) technologies provided under license to Wilson Audio Specialties by MIT. The use of these technologies preserves details in the recording and mastering process that result in a record or CD with increased clarity and transparency. This ensures a more natural and lifelike representation of the original event. CVT and MIT are registered trademarks of Music Interface Technologies of Auburn, California.Both analog and digital mastering were performed at Wilson Audio’s mastering facilities in Provo, Utah.
The Wilson Audio Disk Mastering facility combines a superbly crafted and carefully modified German (Neumann) lathe and cutterhead with totally custom designed electronics. The signal path scrupulously adheres to the audiophile maxim that “less is more.” Starting with a Studer A-80 mastering playbackdeck with Ultramaster TM electronics – and MIT CVT Proline Terminator Series cabling throughout, the Neuman SX-74 cutter head is driven by Audio Research V-140 hybrid triode vacuum tube amplifiers.
David A. Wilson
Symphony Hall, Salt Lake City Utah
|Release Date||February 2, 2015|
“David Wilson’s recording label, Wilson Audio, was recording brilliantly direct to 15 IPS half-track analog tape back in the early ‘90s. Among the artists that Wilson recorded was a fine pianist with a remarkable name: Hyperion Knight. One of the several albums that he recorded with Wilson was by another favorite composer of mine, George Gershwin. This solo album, Gershwin by Knight, includes the immortal “Rhapsody in Blue,” which I have selected here. No matter that this composition is one of the best-known in the world; Rhapsody is none the worse for wear, and near grows stale in my heart. Knight’s solo piano foray into this work has always appealed to me: A lyrical feel, with fine poetics in the quiet passages, together with a muscular, powerful approach to the crescendos. Carrying this orchestral work off so very brilliantly by yourself: Priceless. The transfer to Single DSD is very well done, and provides a sonic treat that’s immediately appreciable. Sit back, and enjoy this classic all over again!”
– from booklet of the album NDSD006 ‘Positive Feedback DSD Sampler’
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