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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 17. July 18th, 1973

Previn Plays Gershwin: — London Symphony Orchestra, Andre Previn, Pianist and Conductor (WRS). Reviewed by Felix Manskleid

Previn Plays Gershwin:

London Symphony Orchestra, Andre Previn, Pianist and Conductor (WRS). Reviewed by Felix Manskleid.

The United States in the 1970's can claim to possess at least as many composers of world renown as any European country. When only 40 years ago an American was asked by an Englishman "With all this passionate love of music among you Americans, where are your American composers?", his reply was that composition "had been imported in America at the very peak of its complexities and that our composers instead of beginning back where the Europeans started, in simplicity, have begun in complexity and tried to make it more complex. It is perhaps too soon to know whether this is a success or a failure."

When Dvorak arrived in America in 1892, the fervour of nationalism was then sweeping European countries. He was appalled at the imitative practices of American composers and intended to prove to the Americans that American music could be fashioned from the strains of the Indian, Negro and British background of the country. The result was "The New World Symphony". But although based on authentic folk themes, the work was written in a style which was thoroughly Central European and by no stretch of the imagination, American music.

It was only later with the consolidation of the American heritage that the names of composers such as Harris, Macdowell, Ives, Copland, Piston, Ruggles and Gershwin started to make themselves known, due to an identification with the spirit and the mood of the nation. Over the years, interpreters of Gershwin have been trying to "update" his music with varying effects not always successful. Although these renditions by Previn are pleasing, they can hardly be considered exciting. I miss the majestic, breath-taking sweep of his largo movement as originally performed by Paul Whiteman in "Rhapsody in Blue", an achievement rarely equalled by any other ensemble and the some-what "wading" manner of the orchestra in the "Concerto in F" is at times disconcerting.

The London Symphony Orchestra derives its strength in the more subtle passages and this may be the reason why "An American in Paris" comes across very well in its gay and dreamy ballet-like sequences. As a musician familiar with the jazz and classical techniques, Previn could have been expected to do better. The distinguishable Gershwinesque features such as the feverish handling of clustered notes, the unpredictable climaxes and understatements and soaring outbursts are unfortunately not fully taken advantage of to lift these concert works out of their depth into a slightly bolder setting.