The three Gershwin Preludes are arguably among the most perfect brief utterances in the entire piano literature.
We begin with the composer's own recording of these pieces regarding which words fail me. It is unfair to compare these performances with any others. No one can duplicate the offhand nature of Gershwin's playing or his relationship with the rhythms.
Oscar Levant takes a very different approach to the two (2nd and 3rd) preludes in his recording. And yet, he owns the style and the mood very nearly as much as Gershwin does. There is something of the improvisation in both their performances. I also quite like Iturbi's recordings of the 1st and te 3rd preludes.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not given the affinity the French have always had for jazz, Michel Legrand's set of the Gershwin Preludes is certainly one of the best of all. Another, not at all surprisingly, is the set as performed by Leon Bates in which he switches the order of the 2nd and the 3rd. Eugene List and especially Seymour Bernstein definitely have the feel.
Maybe it's a Polish Pianist/Mazurka thing. Well, almost. Werner Haas comes pretty close in his performance of the first of the Gershwin Preludes. Leonard Pennario kinda just misses. And the young Armenian pianist Hayk Melikyan manages the first prelude really quite well.
There are a number of performances by otherwise brilliant pianists that fall flat. They just can't seem to manage the rhythms and they don't get the blues. In the case of Rubinstein, always tastefully elegant, the playing is too pretty and too refined. The others are trying to walk or run in high heeled shoes, though I must confess to liking Ginzburg's performance of the 2nd of the Gershwin Preludes very much.
1 Allegro ben ritmato e deciso in B♭ major
2 Andante con moto e poco rubato in C♯ minor
3 Agitato in E♭ minor
Polish-American pianist (1887 - 1982)
recorded in 1946
Spanish-Basque pianist (1895 - 1980)
00:18 ➢ 1 Allegro ben ritmato e deciso in B♭ major
01:58 ➢ 3 Agitato in E♭ minor
American pianist and composer (1898 - 1937)
Russian pianist (1904 - 1961)
recorded live in 1957
American pianist (1906 - 1972)
recorded in 1950
Russian-born American pianist (1909 - 1995)
American pianist (1918 - 1985)
recorded in 1968
05:51 ➢ LEONARD PENNARIO, American panist (b 1924 - 2008)
07:20 ➢ WERNER HAAS, German pianist (1931 - 1976)
[preceded by Gershwin, Ginzburg, Cherkassky and Levant also performing the 1st Prelude]
French pianist and composer (b 1932)
contemporary American pianist
Israeli pianist (b 1945)
American pianist (b 1949)
Polish pianist (b 1956)
Hungarian pianist (b 1961)
French pianist (b 1964)
recorded live in 2010
Russian pianist (b 1969)
contemporary Italian pianist
recorded live in 2009
Armenian pianist (b 1980)
For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background
which is also available as an audiobook.
And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:
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