Finally, a recording of "Catfish Row" where the conductor doesn't sound embarrassed over the fact that "C.R." is music extracted and condensed from "Porgy & Bess". In other words, it gets treated as a serious symphonic work and not just an add-on to the usual suspects. A few folks might recognize "Rialto Ripples" as the tune that got used at the start and end of each episode of "The Ernie Kovacs Show" from the days of black and white TV broadcasts. And while "R.R." is less than five minutes long, it's fun! We hear a whistle at one point, and another minor surprise I won't give away for anyone who'll be buying this. Naturally, it goes without saying that both "Rhapsody In Blue" and "Concerto in F" have received plenty of outstanding recordings over the decades. Stafano Bollani is mostly known as a jazz pianist, and his few brief improvisations don't really enhance the Rhapsody in any way (I don't hear any improv. in the concerto). But neither do they hinder or alter the work to anywhere the extent that the brilliant Marcus Roberts used to do (and perhaps still does, I don't know). What few minor blunders in style or interpretation that Bollani might make here and there, they are more than compensated for via Chailly's enthusiastic and thoroughly idiomatic conducting. In fact, I really feel that it's Chailly who should get top billing here.
Other pluses include absolutely gorgeous sound quality, and a tam-tam (orchestral gong) that's perfect for the ending of the Rhapsody, as well as the one big solo 'swat' in the finale of the Concerto (remember Oscar Levant hitting in the gong at this point in "An American In Paris"?). It's strange that one has to go to Leipzig, of all places, to hear the right sounding gong - not too dark sounding, but neither is it overly bright and trashy sounding either.
OK, OK, this new disc isn't going to make anyone forget Oscar Levant, Earl Wild, Andre Previn, Bernstein, Lincoln Mayorga, Garrick Ohlsson, or any of the other great classics from the past. But for anyone wanting this particular combination of Gershwin works (I love "Catfish Row"), you can do so here with confidence.