Sunday, October 29, 2017

October 29, 1787: Mozart's Don Giovanni premiered

Last updated August 26, 2018.

Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni, opera, K. 527

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer)


Composed: 1787


First Performed: October 29, 1787


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: --


Genre: classical > opera


Average Length: 164:20


Parts/Movements:

  1. Overture, Andante

Act I

  1. Introduzione ("Notte e giorno faticar")
  2. Recitative & Duet ("Ma qual mai s'offre, oh Dei, spettacolo funesto... Fuggi, crudele, fuggi")
  3. Aria ("Ah! chi mi dice mai")
  4. Aria ("Madamina! Il catalogo e questo")
  5. Duet with Chorus ("Giovinette che fate all' amore")
  6. Aria ("Ho capito, Signor, si")
  7. Duet ("La ci darem la mano, la mi dirai di si")
  8. Aria ("Ah, fuggi il traditor")
  9. Quartet ("Non ti fidar, o misera")
  10. Recitative & Aria ("Don Ottavio, son morta!... Or sai chi l'onore")
  11. Aria ("Dalla sua pace la mia dipende")
  12. Aria ("Finch' han dal vino calda la testa")
  13. Aria ("Batti, batti, o bel Masetto, la tua povera Zerlina")
  14. Finale ("Presto, presto! priach' ei venga, por mi vo'")

Act II

  1. Duet ("Eh via buffone, eh via buffone")
  2. Trio ("Ah, taci ingiusto core")
  3. Canzonetta ("Deh, vieni alla finestra")
  4. Aria ("Metà di voi quà vadano")
  5. Aria ("Vedrai, carino, se sei buonino")
  6. Sextet ("Sola, sola in buio loco palpitar")
  7. Aria ("Ah, pieta, signori miei! Ah, pieta, pieta")
  8. Aria ("Il mio tesoro intanto")
  9. Recitative & Aria ("In qualieccessi, o Numi... Mi tradi quell' alma ingrata, quell' alma ingrata")
  10. Duet ("O statua gentilissima")
  11. Recitative & Aria ("Crudele! Ah no, mio bene... Non mi dir, bell' idol mio")
  12. Finale ("Gia la mensa e preparata")

Review:

Don Giovanni is a two-act opera was billed at the time as “drama giocoso”, which refers to a mix of serious and comedic action. WK It tells the story of seducing legend Don Juan (“Don Giovanni” in Italian) and how he is destroyed by his excesses. WK

Mozart was in Prague during the first couple months of 1787 to attend and conduct performances of several works, most notably Le nozze di Figaro, his most recent opera. While there, he was commissioned to create a new opera by impresario Pasquale Bondini. JH

It premiered in Prague on October 29, 1787. Reports suggest Mozart didn’t complete the work until that day or the day before. WK It was well-received, as was generally the case for Mozart’s work in Prague. The Prager Oberamtszeitung reported, “Connoisseurs and musicians say that Prague has never heard the like.” WK By contrast, reviews of the opera’s first Vienna performances in 1788 “suggested mild dissatisfaction with the work’s extended length and unnecessary plot elaborations.” JH According to Operabase, it is the seventh most-performed opera worldwide. WK

The final score used double woodwinds, horns, trumpets, timpani, and strings. WK He used three onstage ensembles for a ballroom dance scene at the end of the first act. WK In addition, “Mozart creates levels of dramatic expression through recitativo secco, recitative accompagnato, and aria styles…Recitativo accompagnato is reserved for moments of great emotion, in which the accompanying orchestra virtually assumes a dramatic role. In Act Two, Scene Ten (d), the orchestra virtually speaks for the conflicted Donna Elvira… conveying her rage and slurred couplets giving musical voice to her sighs.” JH

“The dramatically stagnant da capo aria that was the mainstay of the operas of George Friedrich Handel is virtually absent from Don Giovanni. Leporello’s so-called ‘catalog aria’ (Madamina, il catalogo è questo) in Act One, Scene Five, for example, suggests both through-composed and bi-partite formal elements. Some arias in Don Giovanni, however, such as Don Ottavio’s Act One, Scene Fourteen aria (Dalla sue pace), contain traces of the ternary form idea of returning to beginning material after a section of contrasting music. Donna Elvira’s aria in Act Two, Scene Ten(d) (Mi tradì quell'alma ingrate) juxtaposes ternary and rondo form ideas, reinforcing through musical form Donna Elvira’s returning to the same position of pity and longing for Don Giovanni.” JH

“In keeping with the function of the opera overture to introduce the opera’s important themes, the music that begins the overture, marked by alternations between the D minor tonic and its dominant, returns in the Commendatore’s scene in Act Two, Scene Fifteen. The drama of this scene is set in relief by the light use popular music in the preceding party scene, where the on-stage musicians play melodies from arias by Martín y Soler, Sarti, and even Mozart’s own Le nozze di Figaro during Don Giovanni’s party. Don Giovanni’s canzonetta (Deh, vieni alla fenestra, o mio Tesoro) in Act Two, Scene Three, an airy strophic song scored for pizzicato strings and mandolin, is a similarly witty musical juxtaposition of planes of realism.” JH


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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

October 25, 1885: Brahms' Symphony No. 4 premiered

Last updated August 31, 2018.

Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98

Johannes Brahms (composer)


Composed: 1884-85


First Performance: October 25, 1885


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: --


Genre: classical > symphony


Parts/Movements:

  1. Allegro non troppo
  2. Andante moderato
  3. Allegro giocoso
  4. Allegro energico e passionato

Average Duration: 40:30

Review:

“That Brahms initially approached the symphonic form with trepidation is fairly evident from the chronology of his works. It wasn't until the age of 43 that he completed his First Symphony. Indeed, the composer’s output to that point suggests a conscious process of self-education. A number of smaller-scale orchestral works, including the Variations on a Theme of Haydn and the proto-symphonic Piano Concerto No. 1, suggest preparation for what Brahms clearly saw as the elusive of compositional enterprises. He was to meet the challenge with a skill and individual spirit, one of Classicism refracted through the prism of high omanticism, that led many to pronounce him heir to Beethoven.” MR

“Each of the movements bears the distinct stamp of the composer’s personality. The first begins with a theme in E minor based upon the interval of a third, which also provides a structural and motivic foundation for the remainder of the work. There is a notable sense of unrest from beginning to end, and the tragic, even fatalistic atmosphere is further and stunningly underlined by the final, minor-key plagal (IV-I) cadence. The second movement, which opens with a brief, melancholy sort of fanfare, gives way to the quietly accompanied winds in perhaps one of the loveliest of any of the composer’s themes, granted particular plangency through the use of the flat sixth and seventh scale degrees borrowed from the minor mode. This material is gradually developed into soaring, tutti lyricism that fades into ethereal quiet.” MR

“The third movement, a lusty, stomping, duple dance, proved so popular in Brahms’ lifetime that audiences constantly demanded that it be repeated. The last movement is perhaps most notable of all, cast as it is in the "archaic" Baroque form of a chaconne — variations over a ground bass. The chaconne’s subject is in fact a slight modification of that used by Bach in his Cantata No. 150; though deceptively simple — essentially an ascending minor scale segment from the tonic note to the dominant, then a leap back to the tonic — Brahms uses this skeleton as the basis for an increasingly elaborate and thematic harmonic framework. From its first presentation, which is not as a bass line, but as a theme in the winds, Brahms gradually weaves some 34 variations that steadily build in intensity, as though in defiance to the oppressive, insistent rotation of the ground. The final variations lead directly into an ending which reconfirms the weight of tragedy and pathos borne by the first movement.” MR


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Thursday, October 19, 2017

October 19, 1923: first performance of Ravel's orchestra version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition

Last updated August 30, 2018.


(ELP version)

Tableaux d’une Exposition (Pictures at an Exhibition)

Modest Mussorgsky (composer)


Composed: 1874


Reworked for Orchestra: 1922 (by Ravel)


First Performance: October 19, 1923


Live Rock Performance by ELP: March 26, 1971


Sales: 0.5 million in US (ELP)


Peak: 10 US, 3 UK (ELP)

Quotable: From piano suite to orchestral work to “one of the seminal documents of the progressive rock era.” – Bruce Eder, All Music Guide


Genre: classical > orchestra/progressive rock


Parts/Movements:

  1. Promenade
  2. No. 1, The Gnome
  3. Promenade
  4. No. 2, The Old Castle
  5. Promenade
  6. No. 3, Tuileries
  7. Promenade
  8. No. 4, Bydlo
  9. Promenade
  10. No. 5, Unhatched Chickens
  11. No. 6, Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle
  12. No. 7, The Market Place at Limoges
  13. No. 8, Catacombes
  14. No. 9, Baba-Yaga (La cabane sur des pattes de poules)
  15. No. 10, Great Gate of Kiev

ELP’s Track Listing:

  1. Promenade
  2. The Gnome
  3. Promenade
  4. The Sage
  5. The Old Castle
  6. Blues Variations
  7. Promenade
  8. The Hut of Baba Yaga
  9. The Curse of Baba Yaga
  10. The Great Gates of Kiev [The End]
  11. Nutrocker (3/18/72) #70 US

Average Duration: 32:20

Review:

When Viktor Hartmann, an architect and stage designer, died in 1873, librarian and critic Vladimir Stasov arranged a memorial showcasing Hartmann’s work. Mussorgsky, a friend of Hartmann, was moved to compose a piano suite. In the century since Pictures at an Exhibition debuted, more than a dozen versions have been made, “but none that challenge the finesse, subtlety, and cumulative impact of Maurice Ravel’s (1875-1937), made for Sergey Koussevitzky” RD who premiered his version on October 19, 1923 in Paris and made the first recording of Exhibition in 1930. RD A version with Rafael Kubelik conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (arranged by Ravel) was recorded in 1951 and has been named to the Grammy Hall of Fame and Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.

“Ravel left out only one of the PromenadesRD while developing a score which included “triple winds, alto saxophone, two harps, and lots of percussion.” RD “A more heavily scored ‘Promenade’ introduces Tuileries, the famous Parisian garden, with winds reproducing the ‘dispute of children after play’ in B major. Bydlo with solo tuba follows lumberingly in duple meter – Hartmann’s sketch of a Polish ox-cart on large wooden wheels. Following a tranquil ‘Promenade’ for winds and low-strings, Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells is a ‘scherzino’ in F major, illustrating children’s’ costumes from which legs protrude.” RD.

Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle was Stasov’s euphemistic title for a pair of drawings Hartmann called ‘Two Polish Jews, one rich, one poor.’ While Goldenberg pontificates weightily, the solo trumpet natters obsequiously in triplets. The ensuing Marketplace at Limoges is another scherzino, where marketing women gossip and quarrel.” RD

“Without pause, solemn brass chords transport us to Catacombs beneath Paris, where Hartmann sketched himself and two companions. The scene continues with Cum mortuis in lingua morta: ‘skulls begin to glow dimly from within.’ Another ‘Promenade,’ in effect a ‘Requiescat,’ leads to The Hut on Fowl’s Legs, a clock shaped as the witch Baba Yaga’s hut, from which she flies astride a mortar, used to mash human bones into paste. The Great Gate of Kiev concludes without a break – a contest design commemorating Tsar Aleksandr’s escape from assassins. On one side is a bell tower, and in the middle a cupola shaped like an old Bogatir helmet. Processional music in E flat includes a grandiose expansion of the ‘Promenade’ theme, leading to an awesome climax punctuated by bass drum, tubular bells, and tam-tam.” RD

Years later, Pictures at an Exhibition was significant as “one of the seminal documents of the progressive rock era, a record that made its way into the collections of millions of high-school kids who never heard of composer Modest Mussorgsky and knew nothing of…Victor Hartmann.” BE Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s recording of Pictures, “with its bracing live ambience and blazing pyrotechnics, was the album that put the group over.” BE “It wasn’t the first treatment of a classical piece in this manner…but it was the first to reach a mass audience or get heavy radio play.” BE It “made a fairly compelling case for adapting classical pieces in this way” BE “and introduced the notion of ‘classical rock’ to millions of listeners.” BE

“It worked on several levels that allowed widely divergent audiences to embrace it – with the added stimulus of certain controlled substances, it teased the brain with its mix of melody and heavy rock, and for anyone with some musical knowledge, serious or casual, it was a sufficiently bold use of Mussorgsky’s original to stimulate hours of delightful listening.” BE


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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

October 17, 1967: First stage production of Hair

Originally posted August 11, 2008. Last updated September 3, 2018.

Hair (cast/soundtrack)

Galt MacDermot/ Gerome Ragni/ James Rado (composers)

First Stage Production: October 17, 1967

Cast Album Recorded: May 6, 1968

Soundtrack Recorded: December 1978 – January 1979

Cast Album Charted: August 3, 1968

Soundtrack Charted: April 7, 1979


Sales (in millions):
US: 5.0 C, 0.5 S
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 5.5 C+S


Peak:
US: 113-c, 65 S
UK:
Canada: 114-c
Australia: 128-c

C cast album
S soundtrack

Quotable: --


Genre: show tunes


Album Tracks – Cast Album:

  1. Aquarius
  2. Donna
  3. Hashish
  4. Sodomy
  5. Colored Spade
  6. Manchester England
  7. I’m Black
  8. Ain’t Got No
  9. I Believe in Love *
  10. Ain’t Got No (Reprise) *
  11. Air
  12. Initials *
  13. I Got Life
  14. Going Down *
  15. Hair
  16. My Conviction
  17. Easy to Be Hard
  18. Don’t Put It Down
  19. Frank Mills
  20. Be-In *
  21. Where Do I Go?
  22. Electric Blues
  23. Manchester England (Reprise) *
  24. Black Boys
  25. White Boys
  26. Walking in Space
  27. Abie Baby
  28. 3-5-0-0
  29. What a Piece of Work Is Man
  30. Good Morning Starshine
  31. The Bed *
  32. The Flesh Failures (Let the Sun Shine In)
* unique to cast album

Album Tracks – Soundtrack:

  1. Aquarius
  2. Sodomy
  3. Donna/ Hashish
  4. Colored Spade
  5. Manchester England
  6. Abie Baby/ Fourscore **
  7. I’m Black/ Ain’t Got No
  8. Air
  9. Party Music **
  10. My Conviction
  11. I Got Life
  12. Frank Mills
  13. Hair
  14. L.B.J. **
  15. Electric Blues/ Old Fashioned Melody **
  16. Hare Krishna **
  17. Where Do I Go?
  18. Black Boys
  19. White Boys
  20. Walking in Space
  21. Easy to Be Hard
  22. 3-5-0-0
  23. Good Morning Starshine
  24. What a Piece of Work Is Man
  25. Somebody to Love **
  26. Don’t Put It Down
  27. The Flesh Failures (Let the Sun Shine In)
** unique to soundtrack

Notes: “In 1999, a 20th anniversary edition of Hair [US OST] was issued with ‘Party Music’ and ‘My Conviction’ included as bonuses sporting a significantly expanded liner notes booklet.” LP


Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Aquarius/ Let the Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures) [THE 5th DIMENSION] (3/8/69) #1 US, #11 UK, sales: 1 million
  • Easy to Be Hard [CHERYL BARNES] (4/28/79) #64 US

Review:

“With a score by Gerome Ragni, James Rado and composer Galt Macdermot,” CD-C Hair was “the first and best musical of the hippie peace and love generation.” CD-C “The show and the album were quite different to the usual Broadway fare.” CD-CHair was both celebratory and anticlimactic at the same time. Heralded by many at the time as being a rejuvenation for musical theater, it was also supposed to ‘speak’ for the youth. The problem with that is that any time you attempt to allow a piece of written work to speak for a generation, it invariably fails. It is undoubtedly impossible for one musical to classify every attitude held by a person under 30 at that time. Given this fact, Hair was destined to be considered a disappointment.” SE

“However, if you take the score out of this context and listen to it simply as a snippet of some prevalent beliefs of the time, or simply as a fictional work, it is really quite wonderful. As Claude’s best friend is expelled from high school and the love of Claude’s life loves someone else, Claude must struggle with the decision to submit to government regulations in which he doesn't believe. A youthful exuberance covers the proceedings, with the first act ending with the infamous nude sequence.” SE

“The music is heartening and invigorating, including the classics Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine, Let the Sunshine In, Frank Mills (which was covered by the Lemonheads on their 1992 album It’s a Shame About Ray), and Easy to Be Hard. The joy that has been instilled in this original Broadway cast recording shines through, capturing…exactly what [its creators] were aiming for – not to speak for their generation, but to speak for themselves.” SE

The cast album was recorded in RCA Studio B in New York, New York on May 6, 1968. CD-CThe “principal cast includes: Ronald Dyson (Ron); James Rado (Claude); Gerome Ragni (Berger); Steve Curry (Woof); Lamont Washington (Hud); Lynn Kellogg (Sheila); Sally Eaton (Jeanie); Melba Moore (Dionne); Shelley Plimpton (Crissy); Diane Keaton (Waitress); Jonathan Kramer (Young Recruit); Paul Jabara (General Grant); Lorrie Davis (Abraham Lincoln); Donnie Burks (Sergeant).” CD-CThe album won a Grammy for best score from an Original Cast album. CD-C

More than ten years later, Milos Forman directed the “cinematic version…As with most adaptations from the stage, the results can be either hit or miss. While the film did not generate much in the way of critical or viewer acclaim, this album contains some noteworthy variations on the 1968 play. At the center is music from Galt MacDermot and James Rado, which likewise has remained as a sort of late-1960s aural time capsule.” LP

“In more than a few cases, the movie’s luminous cast take the tunes to a new level. In particular, Treat Williams’ portrayal of Berger shines throughout, especially on secondary numbers such I Got Life, which he turns into one of the best on-screen performances.” LP

“John Savage turns in a stellar rendering of the central figure, Claude, whose middle American roots and values are challenged by the freedom offered in the burgeoning counterculture. His substance-induced Where Do I Go becomes not only a pivotal point in the movie, but one of the best cuts on this disc.” LP

“The support is of equal value with Beverly d’Angelo’s ‘Good Morning Starshine’ and Cheryl Barnes’ reading of ‘Easy to Be Hard’ being among the strongest versions available. Nell Carter’s big screen debut could not have been more perfectly cast. She captures the essence of Abie Baby and White Boys with a perfect blend of soul and drama. Additionally, Carter plays a significant role in ensemble pieces such as I Got No. The contributions of Melba Moore are not only worth mentioning due to her exceptional rendering of 3-5-0-0, but she is the only member of both the motion picture as well as the original Broadway company. Rock vocalist/ actress Ellen Foley’s solo on Black Boys should be mentioned as a cameo appearance highlight.” LP


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Monday, October 16, 2017

October 16, 1791: Mozart's Clarinet Concerto premiered

Last updated August 27, 2018.

Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer)


Composed: 1791


First Performed: October 16, 1791


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: --


Genre: classical > concerto


Parts/Movements:

  1. Allegro (in A major and in sonata form)
  2. Adagio (in D major and in ternary form)
  3. Rondo: Allegro (in A major and in rondo form)

Average Duration: 28:34

Review:

Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto was written for clarinetist Anton Stadler. Work started in 1789 and the piece was completed in October 1791, less than two months before his death. BR It was “his final purely instrumental work.” WK The work was initially intended for basset horn, BR “as Anton Stadler was also a virtuoso basset horn player,” WK but was revised for clarinet. BR

“Until the mid 20th century musicologists did not know that the only version of the concerto written by Mozart’s hand had not been heard since Stadler’s lifetime…Attempts were made to reconstruct the original version, and new basset clarinets have been built for the specific purpose of performing Mozart's concerto and clarinet quintet. There can no longer be any doubt that the concerto was composed for a clarinet with an extended range.” WK Thus “the version widely known today differs from the work Mozart produced for Stadler, since the original version was written for an instrument with an extended bass compass that allowed Stadler to demonstrate his famed ability to play low notes.” BR

The concerto was premiered by Stadler On October 16, 1791, “at his benefit concert in the Prague Theatre” BR to a generally positive reception. WK “The Berlin Musikalisches Wochenblatt noted in January 1792, ‘Herr Stadeler, a clarinettist from Vienna. A man of great talent and recognised as such at court... His playing is brilliant and bears witness to his assurance.’” WK

It “is notable for its delicate interplay between soloist and orchestra, and for the lack of overly extroverted display on the part of the soloist (no cadenzas are written out in the solo part).” WK “Cast in the usual three movements, the gentle, nostalgic lyricism of much of the Clarinet Concerto has drawn such epithets as ‘valedictory’ and ‘autumnal,’ an assessment that downplays the extraordinary vigor and verve of this inspired work.” BR


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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In Concert: Willie Nelson

image from livenation.com

Venue: Starlight Theater in Kansas City, MO

This was a make-up for the show originally scheduled in June. That show saw the first two acts – Robert Earl Keen and Dwight Yoakum – perform before a torrential downfall put the show on ice. Three months later, Nelson returned. The setlist was barely over an hour, although he crammed plenty of songs in that time, including many favorites.

Setlist *

* Note: Usually I’m pretty diligent about getting the setlist down, but I wasn’t this time. I think I got all the songs down, but I won’t stand by the accuracy of the order of them.

1. Whiskey River
2. Still Is Still Moving to Me
3. Beer for My Horses
4. On the Road Again
5. Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
6. Always on My Mind
7. Funny How Time Slips Away
8. Crazy
9. Night Life
10. Good Hearted Woman
11. It’s All Going to Pot
12. Me and Paul
13. If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time
14. Georgia on My Mind
15. Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
16. Move It on Over
17. Hey Good Lookin’
18. Still Not Dead
19. Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
20. I’ll Fly Away

Oct 4, 1951: American in Paris soundtrack released

Last updated August 31, 2018.

An American in Paris (soundtrack)

George & Ira Gershwin (composers)


Composed: 1928


Soundtrack released: October 4, 1951


Sales: 0.5 million (US)


Peak: 116 (US) s

Quotable: --


Genre: classical / soundtrack


Album Tracks:

  1. Overture
  2. Embraceable You
  3. By Strauss
  4. I Got Rhythm
  5. Tra-La-La
  6. Love is Here to Stay
  7. I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise
  8. Concerto in F, Third Movement
  9. Tra-La-La/ Love Is Here to Stay
  10. 'S Wonderful
  11. “Something to Tell You…”
  12. An American in Paris (Ballet)
  13. Finale
* See Notes.

Singles/Hit Songs:

I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise

  • Carl Fenton (1922) #12
  • Paul Whiteman (1923) #1
  • Ben Selvin (1923) #8

’S Wonderful

  • Frank Crumit (1928) #5
  • Ipana Troubadors (1928) #12

Embraceable You

  • Red Nichols (1929) #2
  • Jimmy Dorsey (1941) #23

An American in Paris

  • Victor Symphony Orchestra featuring George Gershwin (1929) #7
  • Ralph Flanagan (1951) #15 (excerpt entitled “Blues”)

Concerto in F, Parts 1 & 2

  • Paul Whiteman (1929) #10

I Got Rhythm

  • Red Nichols (1931) #5
  • Ethel Waters (1931) #17
  • Louis Armstrong (1932) #17

Love Is Here to Stay

  • Larry Clinton (1938) #15
  • Red Norvo (1938) #16

* As was common in the pre-rock era, multiple versions of a single song from a Broadway show would become hits. All chart positions are from the U.S. Billboard pop charts. Also, see Notes.


Notes: There are multiple versions of this soundtrack available. You can see many at Soundtrack Collector.

The track listing here is based on 1990 CBS Special Products release. Only charted versions of songs from that collection have been listed above.

However, it is the 2-CD, 47-track Rhino reissue that is the cream of the crop. For its full track listing, check out All Music Guide. That collection included many more well-known Gershwin tunes that had charted versions, including Someone to Watch Over Me, I’ve Got a Crush on You, Nice Work if You Can Get It, How Long Has This Been Going On?, But Not for Me, Biding My Time, Love Walked In, and Do, Do, Do.

Review:

The 1951 MGM musical An American in Paris was “inspired by the 1928 classical composition by George Gershwin. Starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, and Oscar Levant, the film is set in Paris, and was directed by Vincente Minnelli from a script by Alan Jay Lerner.” WK The film “won a well-deserved eight Academy Awards, including Best Score.” RM

“The plot is interspersed with showstopping dance numbers choreographed by Gene Kelly and set to popular Gershwin tunes.” WK “The climax is an 18 minute ballet featuring Kelly and Caron and set to Gershwin’s An American in Paris. The ballet alone cost more than half a million dollars, a staggering sum in those days.” WK

“In its original form, the soundtrack album…ran 25 minutes on a 10" LP (also released on 78s and 45s).” WR That collection included “Kelly and/or co-star Georges Guetary warbling their way through the Gershwin favorites S’Wonderful, Love Is Here to Stay, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, and I Got Rhythm.” WR

“Later reissues by CBS/Sony and Rhino vastly expanded that running time with outtakes and other bonus tracks.” WR Notably, “after 50 years, the soundtrack went out of copyright in Europe, enabling Britain’s Prism Leisure label, which specializes in unlicensed reissues, to come up with its own version,” WR which followed the original track listing “plus a 13-minute abridgement” WR of the aforementioned climatic ballet that closes the film. Also added were “42 minutes of bonus tracks not actually related to An American in Paris…[making it] more of a compilation of Gershwin movie music from the 1930s to the 1950s than a simple soundtrack recording.” BE

However, it is the two-CD Turner/Rhino set that “represents the ultimate musical resource for the MGM film.” BE “In the early ‘90s, Turner Entertainment undertook a major restoration of the movie and, in doing so, in addition to original film elements, unearthed a treasure trove of original audio masters and studio session recordings, including alternate takes, unused songs, and rehearsals. Some of these (which included many tracks by Georges Guetary) turned up on the 1992 vintage laser disc box, and now they’re here, remastered yet again, along with elements of the film’s underscore, which contained dozens of George Gershwin tunes that were never actually ‘featured’ in the movie.” BE

“The result is a two-hour celebration of Gershwin’s music that may hold up better than any of the other MGM songbook musicals of this period, thoroughly annotated for the serious listener and pleasingly, entertainingly packaged for the casual purchaser, for whom the only drawback may be the relatively steep price of the double-disc set.” BE

All the bonus material makes it the only “issue of the original soundtrack…that contains all of Gershwin's work on An American in Paris. According to Rhino Records, previous soundtrack albums have included abbreviated versions of songs, some of which were ruined by sound effects and dialogue overriding the music.” RM


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