Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

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maestrob
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Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by maestrob » Sun Jun 06, 2010 10:33 am

A Conductor’s Passion for ‘Porgy’By MATTHEW GUREWITSCH
GEORGE GERSHWIN called “Porgy and Bess” a “folk opera,” emphasis on opera, and lived to see the premiere, on Broadway, in truncated but substantially operatic form. At that time the piece was sung virtually all the way through, but the version that traveled the world after Gershwin’s death, in 1937, was effectively a musical comedy, with spoken scenes framing musical numbers that — apart from “Summertime” — were invariably performed much too fast.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the Austrian cellist who went on to become a conductor and a founding father of the modern early-music movement, heard it done that way by a company touring Europe in the 1970s. “I was moved but horrified,” he said a few months ago in Vienna. He longed to hear a “Porgy and Bess” true to Gershwin’s intentions, to the extent that it is possible to reconstruct them.

“I decided right then to put it on myself,” he said. “Lots of musicians said: ‘Don’t. You don’t have the right blood.’ But Gershwin was Russian. Why should I understand his music any less than Dvorak?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/arts/ ... wanted=all

Alberich
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by Alberich » Sun Jun 06, 2010 10:59 am

"Gershwin was Russian" :?:

He was born in Brooklyn. Why not then call Copland a "Lithuanian?"

josé echenique
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by josé echenique » Sun Jun 06, 2010 11:18 am

I loved his throughly idiomatic conducting of Porgy, even if his mostly South African cast leaves something to be desired.

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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by stenka razin » Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:42 pm

Sadly, the Harnoncourt recording is not being 'pushed' by RCA in the USA. It has gotten almost no publicity and the major CD carriers, like Amazon have never even featured it, especially with a sale price. This recording is not even listed by Barnes and Noble. It is an Import only and the price is unusually high. This makes no sense at all. Harnoncourt's recording, warts and all, should be made available all over the USA as well as around the world.
I have a feeling it would sell very well if made available and if the price was say, 3 CDs for the price of 2.

Just some random thoughts, my fellow CMGers....How about you....Does this recording interest you? 8)
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by Chalkperson » Sun Jun 06, 2010 1:30 pm

stenka razin wrote:This makes no sense at all. Harnoncourt's recording, warts and all, should be made available all over the USA as well as around the world.

Just some random thoughts, my fellow CMGers....How about you....Does this recording interest you? 8)
No, I dislike warts... :mrgreen:
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:52 pm

"Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy"

You've all seen what Harnoncourt looks like when he's conducting, right?

:roll:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Seán
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by Seán » Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:52 pm

stenka razin wrote:Sadly, the Harnoncourt recording is not being 'pushed' by RCA in the USA. It has gotten almost no publicity and the major CD carriers, like Amazon have never even featured it, especially with a sale price. This recording is not even listed by Barnes and Noble. It is an Import only and the price is unusually high. This makes no sense at all. Harnoncourt's recording, warts and all, should be made available all over the USA as well as around the world.
I have a feeling it would sell very well if made available and if the price was say, 3 CDs for the price of 2.

Just some random thoughts, my fellow CMGers....How about you....Does this recording interest you? 8)
I am at two minds about it to be honest. I like Harnoncourt's work but I think that I will give his treatment of Gershwin's opera a miss. I have the Gil Evans/Miles Davis recordings and they'll do quite nicely.
Seán

"To appreciate the greatness of the Masters is to keep faith in the greatness of humanity." - Wilhelm Furtwängler

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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by Chalkperson » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:12 pm

Seán wrote:
stenka razin wrote:Sadly, the Harnoncourt recording is not being 'pushed' by RCA in the USA. It has gotten almost no publicity and the major CD carriers, like Amazon have never even featured it, especially with a sale price. This recording is not even listed by Barnes and Noble. It is an Import only and the price is unusually high. This makes no sense at all. Harnoncourt's recording, warts and all, should be made available all over the USA as well as around the world.
I have a feeling it would sell very well if made available and if the price was say, 3 CDs for the price of 2.

Just some random thoughts, my fellow CMGers....How about you....Does this recording interest you? 8)
I am at two minds about it to be honest. I like Harnoncourt's work but I think that I will give his treatment of Gershwin's opera a miss. I have the Gil Evans/Miles Davis recordings and they'll do quite nicely.
Actually the finest version is by Sir Simon Rattle... :wink:
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by Seán » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:13 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
Seán wrote:
stenka razin wrote:Sadly, the Harnoncourt recording is not being 'pushed' by RCA in the USA. It has gotten almost no publicity and the major CD carriers, like Amazon have never even featured it, especially with a sale price. This recording is not even listed by Barnes and Noble. It is an Import only and the price is unusually high. This makes no sense at all. Harnoncourt's recording, warts and all, should be made available all over the USA as well as around the world.
I have a feeling it would sell very well if made available and if the price was say, 3 CDs for the price of 2.

Just some random thoughts, my fellow CMGers....How about you....Does this recording interest you? 8)
I am at two minds about it to be honest. I like Harnoncourt's work but I think that I will give his treatment of Gershwin's opera a miss. I have the Gil Evans/Miles Davis recordings and they'll do quite nicely.
Actually the finest version is by Sir Simon Rattle... :wink:
Eh thanks, but no thanks. I'll stick with Gil Evans & Miles.
Seán

"To appreciate the greatness of the Masters is to keep faith in the greatness of humanity." - Wilhelm Furtwängler

stenka razin
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by stenka razin » Sun Jun 06, 2010 6:12 pm

Seán wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
Seán wrote:
stenka razin wrote:Sadly, the Harnoncourt recording is not being 'pushed' by RCA in the USA. It has gotten almost no publicity and the major CD carriers, like Amazon have never even featured it, especially with a sale price. This recording is not even listed by Barnes and Noble. It is an Import only and the price is unusually high. This makes no sense at all. Harnoncourt's recording, warts and all, should be made available all over the USA as well as around the world.
I have a feeling it would sell very well if made available and if the price was say, 3 CDs for the price of 2.

Just some random thoughts, my fellow CMGers....How about you....Does this recording interest you? 8)
I am at two minds about it to be honest. I like Harnoncourt's work but I think that I will give his treatment of Gershwin's opera a miss. I have the Gil Evans/Miles Davis recordings and they'll do quite nicely.
Actually the finest version is by Sir Simon Rattle... :wink:
Eh thanks, but no thanks. I'll stick with Gil Evans & Miles.

Sean, Lorin Maazel has a wonderful Decca complete recording available, my friend. 8)
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josé echenique
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by josé echenique » Mon Jun 07, 2010 8:07 am

I think Harnoncourt conducts a far more vibrant and exhilarating Porgy than either Rattle or Maazel, unfortunately his cast is not on his level, but Harnocourt deserves to be heard.

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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by RebLem » Mon Jun 07, 2010 3:05 pm

maestrob wrote:Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy
I didn't know he was gay. How does Alice feel about this?

But seriously, of course, at the moment, the Rattle version is pre-eminent. Personally, I prefer the John Mauceri recording of his reconstructed original Broadway version, though I love the Rattle as well. Yes, I would be interested in the Harnoncourt version, and will put it on my wants list.
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:38 am

There is also this very interesting recording... :D
GERSHWIN Porgy and Bess • Alexander Smallens, cond; William Warfield (Porgy); Leontyne Price (Bess); Cab Calloway (Sporting Life); John McCurry (Crown); Helen Colbert (Clara); Blevins Davis/Robert Breen Production Ch; Berlin RIAS SO • AUDITE 23.405 (2 CDs: 139:51) Live: Berlin 9/21/1952

Starting in 1952, as a salvo in the cultural Cold War, the State Department sponsored a world tour of Porgy and Bess, choosing the work for reasons that look particularly quaint today. This set documents one performance from that run, taped at the Titania Palast in Berlin in September 1952. The edition was a hodge-podge by producer Robert Breen that changed the orchestration, cut some of the music, added a few bits (like an instrumental recap of “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” before act II, scene 3 and an extra verse in “It Ain’t Necessarily So”), and shuffled material around in a way that may throw you. (In fact, the transfer of the “Buzzard Song” to act III so confused some critics that, when Guild released this same recording last year, they mistakenly insisted it had been eliminated entirely.) But whatever you think of the political impulse and the editorial impulsiveness, it would be hard to deny that the production had a spectacular cast. The title roles were taken by William Warfield and his young wife, the then virtually unknown Leontyne Price (this may be the earliest recording of her voice to have been commercially issued); and they were supported by Cab Calloway, as well as a couple of singers who had participated in the original 1935 production (Helen Dowdy as Lily and the Strawberry Woman, Ray Yeats as the Crab Man).

Most attention, I’m sure, will be focused on Price, who sings with an astonishing purity of tone (even when she’s teasing), as well as a sure dramatic sense. From the beginning, you can appreciate the conflicts she faces, and her reprise of “Summertime” at the end will break your heart. Still, to my ears, her voice—indeed, her whole demeanor—is slightly too operatic, too cultivated. That quality is heightened by the contrast between her polish and the improvisational earthiness of the Catfish Row residents, who dig into their parts with abandon, often treating the written text as but a scaffold for ornamentation. In act I, they scorn Bess as a whore who’s beneath them; vocally, she sounds out of her element for entirely the opposite reason. Still, it’s hard not to be taken in by her vocal command and by the sheer beauty of her timbre.

Warfield is even better, with superb enunciation, a fluid control over the long cantilenas, and a warm vocal sound that instantly conveys Porgy’s inner spirit: you can well understand why he accepts Bess’s weaknesses and why he returns from jail with gifts for the whole community. Cab Calloway, as Sporting Life, is slightly less flamboyant than I would have expected, but he’s doubly seductive as a result; Helen Colbert and Helen Thigpen are superb as Clara and Serena. The only disappointment among the soloists is John McCurry, a marginally undercharacterized Crown, neither sufficiently menacing nor, in the hurricane scene, reaching the heroism of Lester Lynch on the recent Mauceri recording (30:3).

Ensemble work is exceptional. As I’ve suggested, Catfish Row is represented by singers comfortable with the vernacular traditions that Gershwin had used as his basic material: the give-and-take in the crowd scenes is utterly transfixing. Indeed, while this opera has a problematic vision at its core (it’s certainly hard to take its representation of African-American life without wincing), no other recording so successfully banishes your qualms while you’re listening—for no other recording gives Catfish Row such an infectious sense of community. Smallens, who presided over the premiere, conducts with tremendous energy, favoring quickish tempos and avoiding the score’s temptations to sentimentalize during such hit numbers as “Summertime” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” This performance of Porgy took place only seven years after the collapse of a regime that banned the music as degenerate. But the Berlin orchestra brought in for the occasion seems to have transcended history quickly: they sound entirely immersed in the idiom.

The original tapes were made on what appears to have been state-of-the-art equipment, and the sound is astonishingly clear and vivid for a live recording of that vintage; Audite’s reprocessing is marginally smoother than Guild’s, although the differences are minimal. Not a first choice if you’re going to live with a single recording (I’d pick the Rattle for that), but as a supplement, this is enthusiastically recommended. Peter J. Rabinowitz
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001NO ... B001NOQ8K8
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maestrob
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Re: Harnoncourt Falls in Love with Porgy

Post by maestrob » Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:55 am

Image

While we're recommending recordings, here's the great Leontyne Price, in scenes conducted by Skitch Henderson (remember him?), along with a great cast in excerpts recorded in the 1960's in fine stereo.

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