Following the success of last year's recording of Gershwin's Piano Concerto and Rhapsody in Blue, conductor Riccardo Chailly and pianist Stefano Bollani return with an album of jazz-inspired classical works, including two world-premiere recordings. The album, which was recorded live at the Gewandhaus, Leipzig, is set for release today, May 22, 2012.
Last year Decca released an all-Gershwin recording featuring these artists and it was a surprise hit. Gramophone commented that "…the performance of the Concerto is the finest I have ever heard . . . Inhibitions are left backstage and, while all parties are alive to the smallest detail, there is an irreverence and spontaneity which capture the spirit of the work like no other . . . Bollani's exuberance and panache are infectious." This unique combination of a revered maestro (who recently has received the highest praise for his Beethoven symphony cycle), an Italian jazz pianist and a storied German orchestra has created something special and the recording shimmers as a result.
For their new recording Chailly and Bollani have turned their attention to the 1930s and works by Ravel, Stravinsky, Weill and de Sabata. The influence of jazz on Ravel's Piano Concerto in G is undeniable. Ravel wrote the work upon his return from America where he had met George Gershwin in New York and even travelled up to the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem to listen to jazz. The concerto is remarkable in that Ravel so fluently integrated the jazz idiom into the classical model of a concerto.
Ravel's music is followed by Stravinsky's Tango which is heard here in both its original 1940 solo piano version as well as Felix Guenther's orchestration (a world-premiere recording). This is a tango as it could only be conceived by Stravinsky and it is certainly a sound-world away from Ravel. This is followed with works by Kurt Weill, a composer who, like Stravinsky, fled Europe in the 1930s. Unlike Stravinsky's analytical re-imagining of the tango, Weill has written songs which masquerade as pop-tunes but are deceptively complex creations. The two selections included, from his shows Happy End and The Threepenny Opera, are examples of his wit and musical sophistication.
The album ends with a suite from Victor de Sabata's Mille e una note (A Thousand and One Nights). Though now known mostly as one of the greatest operatic conductors of the 20th-century he was also a composer. Mille e una notte, a ballet, was given its premiere at La Scala in 1931. The work, unapologetically Romantic, jumps between many styles including music depicting exotic Persia and also America of the Jazz Age which gave de Sabata a reason to write a foxtrot, tango and two waltzes. This is the world-premiere recording of this work.
Riccardo Chailly and Stefano Bollani, two Italian music masters from different genres, and the Gewandhausorchester, one of the oldest orchestras in the world, have teamed up again for a genre blurring album of music. The rhythmic vitality and ingenuity of using both popular and classical forms brings the various works on this album together as does the energy and commitment of the performances.