Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's Gershwin World Premiere Recording Out Now
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Music Director Louis Langrée announce the release of the Orchestra's latest recording, Transatlantic. The album showcasing American composer George Gershwin's take on bustling Paris, French composer Edgar Varèse's take on New York's soundscape, and Igor Stravinsky composing the same work across two continents became available on Friday, August 30 for streaming and purchase digitally. A two-compact disc physical release of Transatlantic will be available September 13, 2019. This album includes the highly anticipated world premiere recording of the critical edition of George Gershwin's An American in Paris. The CSO also gave the world premiere performance of this new edition at La Seine Musicale in Paris in 2017.
"It seemed only fitting that an American orchestra led by a Frenchman gave the world premiere of this new critical edition of An American in Paris in Paris, and we are honored again to be the first orchestra to record this work the way Gershwin intended," said Langrée.
The Transatlantic title reflects the album's French-American sensibility and the musical exchanges between two nations over a two-decade period. "On this recording, we have an American composer coming to Paris and a French composer coming to America, and I wanted to contrast and complement these experiences," Langrée told music writer Doyle Armbrust for an interview in the album's liner notes titled, "Anywhere I Roam." He continued, "Next to these two tone poems, we have a symphony by Stravinsky.... The peculiarity of this piece is that the style and the spirit of the two first movements composed in Paris and the two last movements composed in the U.S. differ completely. Stravinsky wrote that this schism was especially marked in domain of the rhythm, and that some passages of the finale - perfect movie music for a Hollywood traffic scene - would not have come to his ears in Europe."
There are two versions of An American in Paris on this release: the new critical edition of this iconic work, and an unabridged version which includes four passages totaling 104 that Gershwin eventually crossed out. Neither has ever been recorded. The CSO received special permission from the Gershwin estate to record the unabridged edition.
"Before reading this critical edition, I had no idea how much Frank Campbell-Watson's familiar arrangement of An American in Paris, which was created five years after George Gershwin's death, had distorted the original masterpiece," said Langrée. "For instance, Campbell-Watson rearranged and simplified the saxophones parts, having three saxophonists playing one instrument each, instead of Gershwin's original three saxophonists playing a total of eight instruments, including a trio of soprano saxophones. Campbell-Watson also added many slurs, transforming the original crisp articulations into a more lush texture. He softened Gershwin's intended dissonances in sections as if there were misprints in the original score, and added heavy percussion and timpani rolls, giving the piece a different sound. The originality of Gershwin's An American in Paris has been restored in this striking new edition."
George Gershwin and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra percussionist James Rosenberg holding four taxi horns used in the orchestra" height="287" src="cid:16cf95bcac5772f6c3" width="300" />
Another notable difference in this new critical edition lies in the taxi horn pitches. The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Archive uncovered a photo of Gershwin in Cincinnati from March of 1929 with CSO percussionist James Rosenberg. They are holding the four taxi horns Gershwin brought back from Paris.
According to musicologist and University of Michigan professor Mark Clague, editor of the new George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition of An American in Paris (published by Schott) in his article, "The 1929 Gershwin Taxi Horn Photo Clarifies Mystery," the image shows that "the traditional realization of the iconic taxi horn parts used by orchestras today is incorrect."
Langrée and the CSO musicians worked closely with Clague to bring the critical edition and Gershwin's original intentions to life, first in performance and now with the world premiere recording.
"I loved being a part of this unique experience and experiment" said Langrée. "It has been a very special privilege for all of us at the CSO to benefit from Mark Clague's knowledge, expertise and deep love of this masterpiece. The first recording I heard of An American in Paris, like many people, was Leonard Bernstein's, which I still revere. But when you listen to Gershwin's two recordings of the piece - both the one of him playing the piano reduction and the 1929 first orchestral recording that he supervised - you hear ragtime rather than swing. Ragtime was the predominant style in the 1920's, and swing didn't arrive until after Gershwin's death."
Transatlantic also features the rarely performed original version of Edgard Varèse's Amériques which calls for around 150 musicians, and Igor Stravinsky's Symphony in C. Both are celebrated works from the last century by European composers who came to America.
For the original version of Amériques, this marks only the second studio recording in history. "This original version of this piece is a revelation," said Langrée. "Not only does it require many more musicians than the traditional version including off-stage ensembles, it also contains extremely difficult passages recomposed and simplified later. Varèse pushes the limits of individual virtuosity mixed with wild, collective energy. This original version of Amériques is not just bigger-it evokes another world: raw, overwhelming and provocative."
Putting this version of Amériques together for Transatlantic was a team effort. "I want to thank producer Philip Traugott, and our fantastic CSO librarians. We spent dozens of hours together, correcting hundreds of misprints and errors" said Langrée. "It was akin to restoring a great painting, bringing back the original orchestral clarity and vibrancy - ultimately delivering a performance as true as possible to Varèse's original version."
Each of these three celebrated composers featured on Transatlantic performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Gershwin performed his Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F under the baton of Music Director Fritz Reiner in 1924, and came back in Cincinnati for the second ever performance of An American in Paris in 1929, bringing his own set of taxi horns purchased in Paris. Varèse and Stravinsky both conducted the CSO.
"Stravinsky was impressed by the discipline of the CSO and how seriously the musicians took his work," noted Langrée. "He came three times to Cincinnati, first in 1925 to conduct Petrushka and Firebird, when he was still considered in some circles as a hooligan of music. There is a unique tradition in Cincinnati of inviting composers to perform their own work, from Edward Elgar, Camille Saint-Saëns, Alexander Scriabin, or Richard Strauss in the beginning of the 20th century, continuing with Respighi, Gershwin, Bartók, Copland, Bernstein, and Milhaud, and we are proud to uphold this tradition today with the likes of John Adams, Bryce Dessner, Caroline Shaw, and Matthias Pintscher."