Originally published on June 19
On the strength of only one previous Vox Audiophile issue – Leonard Slatkin’s first recording of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, from St Louis, which I included when reviewing the conductor’s Detroit remakes of the composer’s orchestral music, https://www.colinscolumn.com/leonard-slatkin-and-the-detroit-symphony-orchestra-record-rachmaninovs-three-symphonies-plus-for-naxos/ – it was clear that if all the remastering of the Vox catalogue is going to be as good as that release then we’re in for some classy sound.
Classy indeed for this mid-1970s’ Slatkin/St Louis Gershwin collection: the Elite Recordings’ (Marc Aubort & Joanna Nickrenz) reproduction is vivid, dynamic and tangible, the remastering (Mike Clements & Andrew Walton) could not be bettered, and the performances are marvellous, whether Cuban Overture, exuberant and sultry with festive percussion; the earworm that is Promenade (which involves walking a dog), with characterful clarinet contributions from George Silfies; and the haunting bittersweet Lullaby, the St Louis strings sensitive and soulful.
Catfish Row is Gershwin’s own compilation from Porgy and Bess. If not preferable to Robert Russell Bennett’s Symphonic Picture from the opera (two terrific recordings by Antal Dorati, Minneapolis/Mercury and Detroit/Decca), Gershwin’s self-selection is truer to his show, certainly in orchestration (although Bennett’s Technicolor scoring is masterly), with Slatkin and his musicians totally idiomatic in dispensing the numerous hit songs and their varied sentiments. Finally (if first on the disc), An American in Paris, a Slatkin speciality to this day, here zesty, uninhibited, picturesque, eloquent, totally fluent – Slatkin signatures already in place, and this is possibly a spontaneous single-take account, too; fab playing. Vox Audiophile Edition VOX-NX-3019CD (available June 23). The St Louis Gershwin piano-and orchestra recordings, with Jeffrey Siegel, are coming soon.