Klassik  SoloInstrument mit Orchester
Pascal Rogé & Bertrand de Billy & ORF Radio Symphonie Orchester Wien George Gershwin: An American in Paris - Rhapsody in Blue OC 623 SACD
1 Copies immediately available. Shipping till 01 October 2020 Price: 15.59 EURO

Detailed information hide

FormatSuper Audio CD
Ordering NumberOC 623
Release date05/02/2008
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Gershwin, George

Press infoshide

More releases of this artishide

    You may be interested in these titles toohide

      Description hide

      The press gave the highest possible accolade to the recording of Gershwin’s Concerto in F and Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto (OC 601). Pascal Rogé now continues his pairing of Gershwin and Ravel. A French sense of sound and an authentic feeling for the jazz rhythms of this music predestine Pascal Rogé for this repertoire. Pascal Rogé’s recordings of French piano repertoire have been awarded the Gramophone Award, the Grand Prix du Disque and the Edison Award. Besides the classic-romantic repertoire of the Viennese and German School, he also focusses on French music from the 20th century.

      An American in Paris and a Parisian in America

      Ravel and Gershwin – the two had more in common than is evident at first glance, or at first listening. The older French composer began as an impressionist and was one of the first to introduce the blues and foxtrot into European “art” music – the younger American composer, on the other hand, was considered to be the inventor of “symphonic jazz” and took over much from French impressionism. Both placed great value on their external appearance, clothing themselves both privately and publicly with great elegance. On his trip to America in 1928, the small, always well dressed and well groomed Ravel took fifty (!) shirts along, while Gershwin, who almost always dressed like a dandy, wore the exquisite New York fashions of the 20s and 30s even when doing sports. Both were exceptional pianists – and in this context as well, hardly any photo shows either of them at the piano without suit and tie. Both were very social people, had many friends, liked to travel, smoked (Ravel cigarettes, Gershwin cigarettes and pipe) – but remained single. Both apparently had problems with women. Both died in 1937 after brain operations – Ravel suffered from a chronic – and to this day unexplained – brain disease, Gershwin from a large brain tumor. And both ungrudgingly recognized the genius and exceptional position of the other. “I want to get to know Gershwin and hear him play,” Ravel wished in 1928 for his 53rd birthday in New York. Gershwin came and played him almost his entire repertoire. On this evening, Ravel returned the favor at the piano not – as he usually did – with his own Bolero, but with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. And Gershwin immediately asked the 23-year-older Ravel if he would take him on as a student in harmony and instrumentation. Ravel’s answer: “You are a first-class Gershwin; why would you want to become a second-class Ravel?”

      Maurice Ravel, born in 1875 in Ciboure, close to St. Jean-de-Luz in the Basque region, moved with his parents to Paris when he was a baby, making him typically French from the beginning on, but with certainly some Spanish-Basque influence from his mother’s side. Spain also remained his second artistic homeland. His mother always sang him the Basque children’s songs of her childhood – while from his father, a civil engineer and brilliant inventor from Haute-Savoie, born, however, near Lake Geneva, he inherited the qualities of a “Swiss watchmaker”, as Stravinsky once remarked wittily. The Ravels lived in Paris in pleasant middle-class surroundings, and Maurice enjoyed a first-class musical education.

      George Gershwin, on the other hand, a true American in both habitus and music, was the son of Jewish immigrants from St. Petersburg who had come to New York in 1891. His father Moritz Gerschowitz, at first a model draftsman in a shoe factory, was at turns a restaurant leaseholder, bakery owner, operator of Russian and Turkish baths, a pension, betting office, billiard salon and cigar shop – always driven by his wife Rosa Bruskin, daughter of a successful St. Petersburg fur trader. Sometimes, he earned quite well – but the net result was that he almost always ended up bankrupt. Both Ravel and Gershwin were strongly attached to their mothers. And both earned so much money with their music that they could leave the milieus of their fathers behind.

      In 1920, Ravel bought a small country estate in Montfort-Lavory, 50 km from Paris. “A house as though made from a grotesque set of toy blocks,” said H.H. Stuckenschmidt, with a small set of entrance stairs with no rail, a little tower and a high terrace with garden (with Japanese bonsais and all kinds of rare flowers), on which Ravel spent a fortune. “Siamese cats with silky, light-brown fur and violet-colored eyes were his favorite housemates; on one of his last trips, made when he was terminally ill, he felt his best in a Moroccan house – not because of the European doctors who came to see him – but due to the dozen cats and twenty turtledoves who recognized him as their lover and purred and cooed around him.” Stuckenschmidt further writes about the interior of Ravel’s house in Montfort-Lamory with its tiny chairs and wonderful gadgets, “Ravel, so refined in his musical tastes, had a love of picturesque kitsch and a passion for mechanical toys and machines. One could find knick-knacks of doubtful taste, fake Chinese arts and crafts, a small porcelain piano, a mechanical doll under a glass cover and an artificial nightingale that could sing and beat its wings.”

      Gershwin’s last elegant apartment in New York, at the corner of 132 East and 72nd Streets, was only rented, including a second one for his brother Ira, the lyricist of his songs and his constant workmate. Antonio Mingotti reports, “Gershwin capitulates to snobby aesthetic indulgences. One of New York’s most famous architects designs his apartment according to his desires. Gershwin’s apartment is meant to be the talk of the town. The reception area is elegantly paneled, the hallway in Old England Style, the bar is completely made of glass and the bedroom has all refinements modern comfort can offer. The showpiece of luxurious functionality is Gershwin’s studio with a desk created just for himself. It’s not only that this huge piece of furniture has ample room for Gershwin’s outsized score paper, but it is furnished for Gershwin’s childlike pleasure with a vast number of drawers, compartments, containers for writing implements, inkwells and pencil sharpeners… The most important paintings in his valuable collection hang on the walls of his living room (Gaugins, Kandinskys, Picassos und Utrillos) – and next to these some of his own best pictures, all portraits.” (Gershwin himself was a highly talented painter [author’s note]).

      But both composers kept their private lives to themselves. “We friends have always been faced with a riddle in regard to Ravel’s emotional life,” said conductor and composer D.E. Inghelbrecht, one of Ravel’s longtime friends. “There was never any woman in his life – but never any man either.” Stuckenschmidt: “The social and untiring musician in nightly conversations, whose friendly dedications imply a huge circle of friends and acquaintances, had hardly any confidante with whom he shared the most intimate secrets of his life. Those who knew him speak of his great detachment… It was as if he hid qualities or inclinations that oppressed him.” On the other hand, Ravel wrote certainly the most sensual music of the 20th century. Stuckenschmidt: “A primary feature of Ravel’s music is its sensuality, its obsession with copulation. It is Eros-as-sound – as hardly any other composer has ever achieved… What life refused him, he created a substitute for in his music. Art – like so many other things – was also a surrogate for that which he did not experience.”

      And Gershwin? He certainly had a preference for attractive girls and went out with many. But there seems to have been none for whom he would have given up even part of his hectic workaholism. It wasn’t hard for him – the talented, successful and elegant achiever – to be successful with women, but he couldn’t ever decide to enter a stable relationship. Until the end of 1935 – when he was 37 and was destined to live only two more years – he met Paulette Goddard, one of the most attractive and intelligent women in the film scene. She was married to Charles Chaplin, and the two met Gershwin at various parties. He felt deeply and unwaveringly attracted to her – and she let him court her, not averse to a little flirt. Gershwin believed in true love and was certain she would get divorced and that he would be together with her in true happiness. But upon the heels of his burning confession of love and marriage proposal came only her negative answer. Boundless disappointment, shock and depression were the result. Gershwin needed months to pull himself back together again; brother Ira and his wife Leonore helped get him through this difficult time – but thanks also to his innate vitality he got over the only catastrophe in his life and threw himself into his work again.

      At 26, Gershwin had celebrated the first major triumph of his life as both pianist and composer of his own Rhapsody in Blue, written as a commission for “King of Jazz” Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. The young songwriter was so well known by then that the audience at the February 12, 1924 premiere in New York’s Aeolian Hall included such luminaries as Heifetz, Kreisler, Godowsky, Mengelberg, Rachmaninoff, Stokowski, Stravinsky and Jerome Kern. Listeners were electrified. Gershwin’s success was indescribable – even with the press. The piece was an immediate hit – not only in America, but in Europe as well. Alone with Rhapsody, Gershwin became a rich man. The glissando clarinet run, which begins the work as with a melancholy-orgiastic cry, caught fire like a rocket. The work came to set a great example in “symphonic jazz” and inspired many composers to write similar works – Aaron Copland, George Antheil, Ernst Krenek with his Jonny spielt auf, Kurt Weill with his Mahagonny. But Rhapsody in Blue remains the standard work of its genre: the assimilation of jazz and European art music. Antonio Mingotti: “But this symbiosis does not result in ‘more refined jazz’, as one might think at the beginning. It is simply an impression, a musical description that shows all signs of originality, but which is unique and inimitable – not only for other composers, but for its own author as well.” A stroke of genius. Gershwin had left the orchestration up to someone else, namely Ferde Grofé, the pianist and arranger in Whiteman’s jazz orchestra. Only after his next major success, the Concerto in F from 1925, did Gershwin begin doing his own orchestration.

      Four years later, in 1928, Gershwin took his fifth and last trip to Europe. In Paris, he met the leading composers of the city, including Auric, Milhaud, Stravinsky, Prokofiev (Ravel was in America at the time), and Lehár, Kalman, Adele Strauss as well as Alban Berg in Vienna. And he sketched music in the Bristol Hotel that had already smitten him in Paris and that he could no longer get out of his mind: An American in Paris – the musical description of a young American, Gershwin himself, of course, who strolls through the metropolis along the Seine, dances down the Champs-Élysées to a ragtime, past the honking taxis, which are played in the orchestra by real car horns. From a café he hears a dramatic dance melody (La Maxixe), intoned by the trombones. The English horn closes a more pensive episode, evoked by a quiet place with an old church. In the middle, the solo trumpet plays a blues, which is then replaced by a Charleston – homesickness for the young tourist’s American homeland. But the young man then meets another American, with whom he enters the bustle of nighttime Paris. The blues from the beginning returns as well as the “strolling theme” with its car horns. With constant tempo changes and sumptuous sounds, the tone poem moves inexorably to its end. The reaction to the December 13, 1928 premiere under Walter Damrosch with the New York Philharmonic was mixed: the audience was carried away; reviewers were in part hostile. But the piece followed its own course and was a complete success not only in concert halls of the world, but as ballet music for stage and film.

      Three years later, Ravel – now 56 years old – wrote his one-movement Piano Concerto in D Major for the Left Hand, commissioned by the one-armed Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein. “The ‘Concerto for the Left Hand’ has a rather exceptional character,” wrote Ravel, comparing the work to his Piano Concerto in G Major, which he composed at the same time. “It has only one movement with many jazz effects, and its compositional method is more complicated.” In 1931, Ravel had long since distanced himself from pure impressionism and developed a very personally colored classicism. And through an innovative layering of mixed sounds instead of the earlier fusion of individual instruments, his orchestral sound had changed. The formal arrangement of the concerto in three larger sections is evident: Both the underlying apocalyptic character with its dark “Dies Irae” theme in the contrabassoon and the passionate-pathetic but sonorous strings are a surprise at the beginning – before the solo piano commences with the calm, majestic main subject that is in D Major with a Lydian touch. In the middle section, intense jazz episodes alternate from one instrument group to another; strong reminiscences of Bolero can be heard. A long, lyrical solo cadenza in the piano leads into the rhythmically dotted close. No American in Paris, but perhaps a Parisian in America?

      Andrea Seebohm
      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      Pascal Rogé

      Pascal Rogé is considered to be one of the leading French pianists. His interpretation entrances audiences with its colours, poetry and brilliant technique. Having found a soul mate in conductor Bertrand de Billy, the two artists have placed Ravel and Gershwin in a new context that enables the discovery of fascinating new facets and ways of hearing the two composers’ works.

      Born in Paris, Rogé appeared with orchestras in Paris at the early age of 11. He was then accepted at the Paris Conservatory, where he won First Prize for Piano and Chamber Music. During his studies, the young musician’s most influential teacher – for both his general development and career – was Julius Katchen, who described Pascal Rogé as one of the most important talents of his generation. Rogé gave triumphal debuts in Paris and London at the age of 17; at 20 he won the coveted Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition, presaging his inexorable ascent to the ranks of the international elite. Pascal Rogé has performed in almost every major concert hall in the world. Some of the orchestras he has appeared with include the Philadelphia Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, l’Orchestre de Paris, l’Orchestre National de Radio France, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande Geneva, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and all the major London orchestras.He has undertaken extended tours through Germany, the Far East, New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain. He can be heard in the USA (Carnegie Hall in New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, among others) just as often as in Canada, including Montreal and Toronto. Annual tours of Japan have become one of his focal points.

      His prize-winning recordings include the Saint-Saëns and Ravel concertos under Charles Dutoit (Grand Prix du Disque and Edison Award). In 1988, he received the coveted Gramophone Award for the best instrumental recording; in 1997 he was presented with this award again in the “Chamber Music” category.

      A passionate chamber musician, Pascal Rogé appears with Gautier Capuçon (cello), Chantal Juillet (violin) and the Quatuor Ysaye, among others. He has also recorded Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier for French television.


      Bertrand de Billy was born in 1965 in Paris and first trained to become an orchestral musician, soon appearing as a conductor. He then decided, however, to seriously study conducting and left Paris as first Kapellmeister and associate music director to go to the Dessau Opera. He then accepted the same position in 1996 in Vienna, a city which has remained the central focus of his activities. De Billy’s international career rapidly developed parallel to this as well.

      Within only several years he debuted at London’s Covent Garden, the Berlin, Hamburg and Munich State Operas, Brussel’s La Monnaie and the Paris Opéra Bastille.

      In 1997, he appeared for the first time at both the Vienna State Opera and the New York Met – and has remained closely linked to both houses ever since. In 1999, Bertrand de Billy was appointed as Music Director of the rebuilt Teatro Liceu in Barcelona and shaped the traditional house with his musical groundwork till the present day. He performed a Mozart cycle during the five years of his stay there, but above all, Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen with a cast of international stars, directed by Harry Kupfer, as well as Tristan und Isolde. Both were a great personal triumph for Bertrand de Billy. In 2004, he left Barcelona to dedicate himself fully to his newest task, one which he had started in 2002: as Music Director of the Vienna RSO, he developed the orchestra into a flexible, highly admired instrument that performs music ranging from Mozart operas to important world premieres of contemporary music with effortless stylistic mastery and an internationally famed sound quality. In addition to its regular series in Vienna concert halls, the RSO also appears as an opera orchestra in the Theater an der Wien, a development that de Billy decisively promoted well before his appointment as guest conductor.

      In summer 2002 he debuted with Mozart’s Zauberflöte with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival and since then conducts his own orchestra in programs that reflect the whole range of his abilities. Bertrand de Billy’s work is documented on numerous CDs (almost all released by OehmsClassics) and DVDs.

      RSO Wien · Vienna RSO

      The Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (Vienna RSO) was founded in 1969 as an offshoot of the Austrian Radio Broadcasting Company’s large orchestra. Since then, it has profiled itself as one of the most diverse orchestras in Austria, focusing primarily on the performance of contemporary music. Under its principle conductors Milan Horvat, Leif Segerstam, Lothar Zagrosek, Pinchas Steinberg and Dennis Russell Davies, however, the Vienna RSO has broadened its repertoire, which now ranges from the pre-classic to the avant-garde. Bertrand de Billy’s tenure as the Vienna RSO’s principle conductor began on September 1, 2002.

      In addition to its own concert series in the Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna, the orchestra regularly appears at major festivals in and outside of Austria. It maintains especially close ties to the Salzburg Festival. The ensemble’s extensive tours have taken it to the USA, South America, Asia and many European countries. The Vienna RSO has worked with such guest artists as Leonard Bernstein, Ernest Bour, Andrew Davis, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Christoph Eschenbach, Michael Gielen, Hans Werner Henze, Ernst Krenek, Bruno Maderna, Krzysztof Penderecki, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Hans Swarowsky and Jeffrey Tate. Renowned guest conductors such as Michael Gielen, Peter Eötvös, Michel Plasson, Martyn Brabbins or Wayne Marshall, as well as representatives of the younger generation of conductors such as Tugan Sokhiev, Kirill Petrenko and Gabriel Feltz stood on the podium during the 2006/2007 season.

      The Vienna RSO has also established itself as an opera orchestra at Vienna’s KlangBogen Festival, with productions that include Massenet’s Werther, Menotti’s Goya, Mozart’s Idomeneo or Beethoven’s Fidelio. Beginning in 2007, the Vienna RSO performs at least three opera productions annually in the Theater an der Wien.

      The Vienna RSO’s extensive recordings for the ORF and its many CD productions include works of all genres, including many premieres of pieces by modern and contemporary classical Austrian composers.

      The Vienna RSO’s philosophy is also to provide a forum for talented young musicians of the coming generation. Examples of such projects include the ensemble’s performances with university and conservatory conducting students at their final exam concerts, the “Gradus ad Parnassum” competition, rehearsals for children and the “Classical Seduction” series of concerts in the RadioKulturhaus, in which children and youth learn about exemplary works from music history through performances and explanations. With the broadcast of this series as well as its concert programs, the ORF orchestra makes a major contribution to the program, which is complemented in “Ö1” (Austrian radio broadcasting company) with portraits of composers and interviews with musicians.


      Tracklist hide

      SACD 1
      • George Gershwin (1898–1937)
        • 1.hapsody in Blue (for piano and orchestra, 1924)16:38
        • 2.An American in Paris (for orchestra, 1928)19:47
      • Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
        Concerto for the left hand in D Concerto pour la main gauche en ré majeur
        • 3.Lento08:40
        • 4.Allegro – Tempo I10:29
      • Total:55:34