Search - George Gershwin, Otto Klemperer, Nathaniel Shilkret :: George Gershwin Memorial Concert

George Gershwin Memorial Concert
George Gershwin, Otto Klemperer, Nathaniel Shilkret
George Gershwin Memorial Concert
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Classical
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #2


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A real collector's item, especially for old-time radio buffs
albertatamazon | East Point, Georgia USA | 09/23/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This recording preserves,for all posterity and in quite listenable sound for its time, one of the most important and moving cultural events of the early twentieth century--the full-length memorial tribute to George Gershwin, the USA's greatest composer ever,IMHO.

This was broadcast on CBS Radio in September,1937, barely two months after the composer's shocking and untimely death from a brain tumor at the age of thirty-eight. All of his most famous pieces for concert hall are heard here,and the advantage of hearing them in a live performance is that they are not edited, as they often would have been in recordings made during that era. (Gershwin's own recording of the "Rhapsody in Blue",made in the 1920's in a recording studio,is rather severely cut.)

Many of the performers, such as Fred Astaire and Oscar Levant, give memorable performances,but there are a few clinkers. The great German conductor Otto Klemperer may be brilliant in Beethoven and Bach, but he was not the man to conduct Gershwin's Second Prelude, heard here in an orchestral arrangement. He has no feel for jazz idioms whatsoever, and he makes this slow, blues-like piece sound like a dirge out of Mahler or Bruckner. It is,sad to say, the worst performance of the Prelude I have ever heard. And whatever possessed the producers of this concert to get Lily Pons,with her pronounced French accent,to sing "Summertime", rather than an American soprano,which they could have gotten easily? It throws the whole "Porgy and Bess" segment out of whack.

That "Porgy" segment, however, is one of the most valuable historical documents ever recorded. It presents members of the original 1935 cast of the opera performing unedited versions of several arias,duets and ensemble pieces from the opera, conducted by Alexander Smallens, the original conductor. And it presents perhaps the only surviving recording of Ruby Elzy,the original Serena, singing "My Man's Gone Now". (Miss Elzy was NOT featured on the so-called Broadway cast album; Anne Brown,the original Bess,sang Serena's music on that one,as well as singing Bess and Clara's arias.) And we finally get to hear Todd Duncan perform "The Buzzard Song", which was cut from the opera for a very long time.

Fred Astaire's spoken tribute to Gershwin is very moving, and at one point, his voice is heard cracking with emotion. The announcer and narrator, however, speaks in that overenunciated, dramatic, actorish style which was apparently the norm for radio announcers of that period. He sounds as if he were getting ready to either impersonate Orson Welles, or audition for "Hamlet", and his style of speaking is almost quaint nowadays.

But this album is still irreplaceable.

An update to this review - This edition of the memorial concert is apparently out of print, and the concert itself has been reissued as part of the ongoing CD series "The Radio Years". DO NOT BUY THAT VERSION. It is vastly inferior to this one. This version has spectacular sound for its time, and the new reissue sounds as if had been recorded through a tin can. And not only is the sound bad on the reissue, but there is tons of surface noise and the program itself seems to be abridged.

We can only hope that the edition listed on this page will be re-issued some day. This historic concert deserves no less."
An Absolute Must For Lovers of Music and History
Niel Shell | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 01/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This album contains the best works of George Gershwin, played by the very best artists of the period. The quality of the recording is excellent, actually amazing considering that this recording was made in 1937. The music of the master, George Gershwin, and the authenticity of the playing is more than enough reason to buy the CD set. But there is more: The album consists of the complete two and one half hour historic radio program, broadcast as the announcer says "by short wave to the four corners of the earth." It is so moving that you can feel like you are experiencing it live. The 16 pages of liner notes that come with CD set have been carefully researched for historical accuracy and competent critical evaluation of the music. One could have wished the producers would have found room on the cover of the CD set to list Charles Previn, who conducted Concerto in F, which accounted for approximately thirty minutes of the playing time and for Nathaniel Shilkret and Nathaniel Finston who, as conductors, were the featured artists for another approximate half hour of playing time. One could only wish that there were only such minor complaints with all musical recordings. The producers deserve thanks for making this wonderful piece of history available to the public."