Russian pianist Denis Matsuev has established himself as one of the most dynamic and virtuosic performers of his generation, and his program on this RCA album with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic is ideally suited to his extraordinary abilities. The pairing of Sergey Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor and George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is a natural one, particularly because of the works' shared post-romanticism (note Rachmaninov's influence on Gershwin's slow theme in the Rhapsody), as well as for the dazzling writing for the piano in both works. Of course, the challenge for Matsuev is to make his part appear effortless, and he succeeds so well in both performances that listeners may be a bit blasé about his playing, taking it in without really considering what knuckle-busters these pieces really are.
"…A lot of bang for the buck."
Composer George Gershwin is driven by his need to succeed. Unfortunately his drive destroys his romantic relationships with singer Julie Adams, who is desperately in love with him, and aloof socialite Christine Gilbert.
Jazz pianist Michel Camilo, working with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra under Ernest Martinez Izquierdo, attempts here to make something new out of George Gershwin's heavily recorded Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F – broadly speaking, he tries to tie these jazz-classical fusions more closely to their jazz roots. Given the fluency with which Gershwin moved between the worlds of classical music, jazz, and pop, the experiment would seem a worthwhile and interesting one, but the recording, at least for those with the usual ways of performing Gershwin in their ears, is likely to come off as neither fish nor fowl.