Alexander String Quartet/Gershwin and Kern
January 21, 2013
Lately it seems like Carl Davis keeps popping up musically for me. I recently finished a review of his score (reconstructed from the original Chaplin) for “City Lights,” received a new release of a James Bond CD, and also found out by reading the liner notes that he arranged Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” for String Quartet and Clarinet (based on the Heifetz arrangements). When the new public relations company Rosebrook Classical, recently started by David Weuste, contacted me about possibly doing a review I immediately agreed to a listen knowing my fondness for Gershwin and Kern. It arrived promptly in the mail from the cellist of the Alexander String Quartet Sandy Wilson with a handwritten note, a rarity these days, with a comment that some reviewers said a classical quartet should stick to classical music. This comment intrigued me even more, prompting me to play the recording.
The first part of the CD includes the four major songs from “Porgy and Bess” featuring the clarinet of Joan Enric Lluna. It is written as a showcase for the talents of the virtuoso and he doesn’t disappoint. The quartet doesn’t take a back seat but nicely melds itself as an integral part of the suite. It is nicely recorded but I did have to adjust my equalizer from my norm to avoid the shrillness that a clarinet can cause in its upper register.
The second section is six Jerome Kern songs performed by the string quartet in a traditional classical style. I like the material having several artists performing the songs in my collection ranging in style from the jazz pianist Bill Evans,to the romantic Mantovani, to Sinatra. The arrangements offer an extended prelude before the melody is performed. Each member of the quartet takes a turn at offering the melody with unique harmony then coming from the other three members.
The third and final selection is the seldom performed “Lullaby for String Quartet” by Gershwin. Never performed during his lifetime the seven minute work definitely has a Hispanic flavor to it without the usual marimba and percussion. Repeated listens will bring out the complexities and nuances to this neglected work. I especially enjoyed the harmonies and the pizzicato section. While not the typical lullaby one might expect it is well worth having in your collection.
I for one am glad that the quartet decided to explore this material and it will be a CD that I’ll return to on a regular basis. I highly recommend you purchase this CD. You can order it directly from their company at www.FoghornClassics.com or your regular supplier.
While I usually include an audio clip I chose not to on this release as the lower audio quality would detract from the fine sound and playing of the Alexander String Quartet.
Foghorn Classics CD2008
1… Summertime (3:14)
2… A Woman Is a Sometime Thing (2:36)
3… Bess, You is My Woman Now (5:35)
4… It Ain’t Necessarily So (2:43)
5… All the Things You Are (4:39)
6… The Way You Look Tonight (4:46)
7… Bill (4:05)
8… The Song Is You (5:01)
9… Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (4:30)
10. Once in a Blue Moon (4:03)
11. Lullaby for String Quartet (7:11)
Total Time is 48:15