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Classical Gershwin / Katie Mahan

Release Date: 11/01/2019
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30132
Composer:  George Gershwin ,  Earl Wild Performer:  Katie Mahan Number of Discs: 1

Katie Mahan's first album on the Steinway label is dedicated to the memory of the "Classical Gershwin" whose music brought crowds to the classical concert halls, who successfully incorporated the nuances of jazz and popular music to create a classical music that was uniquely and authentically American.

R E V I E W:

...Some performers are so determined to explore byways that they create their own. That is what pianist Katie Mahan does on a Steinway & Sons CD featuring arrangements of music by George Gershwin. This is certainly not a disc for Gershwin purists, although it is one that showcases Mahan’s pianistic abilities to good effect. The disc is bracketed by Mahan’s arrangements for solo piano of
Read more Rhapsody in Blue and Second Rhapsody, the first of those being hyper-familiar and the second much less known and still a source of contention in terms of Gershwin’s plans for it (the alternative title, Rhapsody in Rivets, gives a better sense of what the composer was after). Between the arrangements of the rhapsodies are seven for solo piano, by Mahan or Earl Wild, of Gershwin songs: Embraceable You, Our Love Is Here to Stay, I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away from Me, Walking the Dog, Fascinating Rhythm, and a blend of ’s Wonderful and Funny Face. All Mahan’s arrangements are skillfully done and all focus very much on the pianist (Wild’s tend to hew somewhat more closely to Gershwin’s original style) – and Mahan plays everything with marvelous panache. Her enthusiasm for I Got Rhythm and Fascinating Rhythm, and the blend of two numbers from Funny Face, is especially infectious. And she plays the two rhapsodies very skillfully indeed – and is interesting to watch on the included bonus-DVD video of Rhapsody in Blue. The issue with this disc, though, it that it comes across as a tribute to Mahan, not to Gershwin: there is a certain showing-off in taking pieces as skillfully orchestrated as the rhapsodies and arranging them for piano alone, and turning so many songs into concert vignettes showcasing the skill of the performer. To be sure, variations on popular songs are a centuries-long mainstay of pianism, and in fact it would be fascinating to hear Mahan offer something along those lines: what sorts of variations might she create by starting with a piece such as Embraceable You? But that is not what Mahan does here: she simply takes Gershwin’s original songs and makes them into attractive little encore-ish pieces for herself. And the rhapsodies, for all the fine playing Mahan brings to them, always sound as if they have something missing (even though what is missing in Second Rhapsody remains a matter of dispute). This is a first-rate disc for fans of Mahan and for anyone who wants to hear some very familiar tunes (and a few that are perhaps less familiar) performed with aplomb by a fine artist. But it is not the sort of disc that invites repeated listening: Gershwin’s original material reveals something new each time it is heard, while Mahan’s handling of it simply shows once again how good a pianist she is...

Infodad.com

"Mahan brings out the mixture of sensual, indulgent melodies and wonderfully swinging rhythms that make Gershwin's sound so unique, with a punchy, pithy touch, sometimes velvety."

-- Crescendo
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