American Piano Concertos / Wang

Album cover art for upc 095115512821
Catalog: CHSA5128
Format: SACD / CD Hybrid


Barber, S: Piano Concerto Op. 38 Copland: Piano Concerto Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F major

The three works on this disc offer a fascinating insight into the varying attitudes of 20th century American composes to the musical traditions of both Europe and their homeland. Accompanied by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Peter Oundjian, Xiayin Wang plays concertos by the American composers George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber.

A wonderful release that should make new friends for two neglected concertos. Samuel Barber’s sole Piano Concerto was written in 1962 and while his Violin Concerto has achieved great success with audiences, the Piano Concerto has remained something of a Cinderella, certainly as far as concert promoters are concerned. For almost half a century the two recordings made in 1965 and 1991 by John Browning of this concerto have dominated the catalogue. Browning was the work’s dedicate and his 1965 version with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra remains quite special though the sound quality is poor by today’s standards. This excellent new recording by Xiayin Wang should bring this neglected work to a wider audience. Wang obviously believes in this piece and her formidable technique does full justice both to the refined lyricism of Barber’s writing in the concerto’s lovely slow movement and to the more virtuosic and dissonant passages in the outer ones. Copland composed his Piano Concerto in 1926 for himself,—to play with Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra—but it has never attained the popularity of the less modernist Gershwin Concerto in F composed a year earlier. The work evokes the sense of a great American metropolis in its use of jazz and blues idioms and generally brash and witty style. Unusually, it is in two movements: a bluesy and reflective movement is followed by a contrasting one that incorporates Charleston rhythms. Xiayin Wang’s performance of the solo part winningly combines thoughtful sensitivity with great élan whilst Peter Oundjian and the RNSO (especially the brass and percussion sections) provide vivid and convincingly idiomatic support. Xiayin Wang’s account of the Gershwin is, like the other two concertos on this disc, stylishly played, but in spite of the alert and characterful accompaniment from Peter Oundjian and the RSNO—and, of course, the excellent Chandos sound quality—it lacks a little of the necessary exuberance and pizzazz to make it into something special. Turn to the classic version by Earl Wild Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue - Fiedler or the more recent versions by Freddy Kempff Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue - Litton and Jon Nakamatsu Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F, Rhapsody in Blue, Cuban Overture - Nakamatsu, Tyzik and the difference is clear. That said, no one buying this collection is likely to be disappointed by Ms Wang’s performance. As I have already indicated the Royal Scottish National Orchestra play magnificently for their new Musical Director They have certainly absorbed the jazz style in their performances of the Copland and Gershwin concertos as well as switching effortlessly to the more overtly romantic approach required for the Barber. Furthermore the sound quality on this release is superb. The rich and realistic sounding piano is placed within a warm orchestral tapestry, and in all three concertos the generous ambience of the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow is conveyed by the Chandos 24-bit / 96kHz 5.0 channel recording. Wholeheartedly recommended. © 2013

Price: $28.98