Sony Masterworks Releases Porgy and Bess, Available September 21
In celebration of his 80th birthday, acclaimed conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt decided to make a recording of George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess as a gift to himself. He fulfilled a life-long dream of conducting the famous opera at the Graz Festival in Austria in early 2009. It was a sensation with both the public and press, with one of Germany's leading critics writing, "Harnoncourt's...concentrated interpretation...achieved a density and intensity that took the audience's breath away." On Tuesday, September 21, Sony Masterworks releases the live recording of Porgy and Bess conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the premiere of Porgy and Bess on Broadway (October 10, 1935).
Harnoncourt considers Porgy and Bess to be the American opera, noting with enthusiasm that it is, for him: "important music for society at large... Whenever I hear anything about this work, I am always moved."
Harnoncourt's preparation for this production of Porgy and Bess was meticulous. Basing his research on original discussions between the composer, director and librettist, Harnoncourt finally decided against presenting all of the available material. He chose the later score amended by Gershwin himself, used for the New York performance rather than the original Boston score. "They were continually working together on an even better version," explained Harnoncourt of the collaborators. "There was considerably more music available than Gershwin wanted, but he was open-minded and very much wanted to add key elements to the decisive moments." The result was a dramatically dense version, but with consideration to the composer's wishes in terms of reduced forms as well as presenting several possible additions and variations.
In 2009, Nikolaus Harnoncourt was awarded the Classic FM Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award.
George Gershwin (1898-1937): Porgy and Bess:
Isabelle Kabatu, Soprano (Bess); Angela Renée Simpson, Soprano (Serena);
Bibiana Nwobilo, Soprano (Clara); Roberta Alexander, Soprano (Maria);
Jonathan Lemalu, Bass-Baritone (Porgy); Gregg Baker, Baritone (Crown);
Rodney Clarke, Baritone (Jake); Michael Forest, Tenor (Sportin' Life);
Previn Moore, Tenor (Mingo, Robbins, Peter, Honey-Man, Crab-Man)
Arnold Schoenberg Chor; Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Nikolaus Harnoncourt