Porgy and Bess Suite/Gershwin

June 9, 2010

Was there a greater composer combination than George and Ira Gershwin? This reviewer thinks not. In a short span of 20 or so years the Gershwin’s offered hit after hit for first Broadway and then Hollywood. One could only imagine how many recordings there are today that include at least one or more of the Gershwin standards. Thousands I’m sure is a conservative figure.

Simply put Porgy and Bess is a unique opera that combines jazz, classical, and popular music, something that is quite special. The 44+ Suite is divided into five parts and includes all of the material from the opera including “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and all the others. Arranged by Franck Villard the clarinet becomes the singer while the strings are ever present in the background providing the necessary support for soloist Michel Lethiec. Unlike other recordings on the market this is not the big bold symphonic suite that could bring a tear to your eye. This is definitely more in the category of being chamber like, subtle, but a way in which you have to hear this particular music performed. I like the arrangement, the orchestra, and the soloist. While you’re listening to something familiar it is done in such a way that it’s opening up new territory.

The An American in Paris (excerpt) can fall into that same category of hearing familiar territory in a new and different orchestration. Yes I’ve heard this version with a rich full sound from a 100 piece orchestra such as the Boston Pops, complete with sounds of automobile horns in a rendition that will produce shivers up your spine. The 5+ minute offering is more of an appetizer, a far too short sampling of the work. One could liken it to a sound clip. However, I like the clarinet playing and the subtle style of the orchestration.

While Villard did say in the liner notes that he wanted to create a mini concerto from the piano work he only did the Andante and while it is pleasant enough to listen to I really can’t consider it much more than filler material. The same can be said about the 3 Preludes.

I would have much preferred an extended An American in Paris and just eliminate the concerto and prelude material. Having said that I would still recommend this recording as a different way to listen to the old standard Porgy and Bess.

Porgy and Bess Suite (arr. F. Villard for clarinet and strings)

Lethiec, Michel, clarinet

Sinfonia Finlandia Jyvaskyla

Gallois, Patrick, Conductor

1. I. — 00:07:46

2. II. — 00:07:47

3. III. — 00:07:44

4. IV. — 00:09:13

5. V. — 00:11:31

Piano Concerto in F major: II. Andante con moto (arr. F. Villard for clarinet and strings)

Lethiec, Michel, clarinet

Sinfonia Finlandia Jyvaskyla

Gallois, Patrick, Conductor

6. Piano Concerto in F major: II. Andante con moto (arr. F. Villard for clarinet and strings) 00:06:59

An American in Paris (excerpt) (arr. F. Villard for clarinet and strings)

Lethiec, Michel, clarinet

Sinfonia Finlandia Jyvaskyla

Gallois, Patrick, Conductor

7. An American in Paris (excerpt) (arr. F. Villard for clarinet and strings) 00:05:28

3 Preludes (arr. F. Villard for clarinet and strings)

Lethiec, Michel, clarinet

Sinfonia Finlandia Jyvaskyla

Gallois, Patrick, Conductor

8. No. 1 in B flat major 00:01:44

9. No. 2 in C sharp minor 00:03:51

10. No. 3 in E flat major 00:01:32

Total Playing Time: 01:03:35

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