- Gershwin’s rendition of his stunning Masterpiece makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
- Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this copy sounds
- Using the piano roll capturing the performance of the composer himself, Gershwin’s take on the Rhapsody is spirited and jazzy – the work is performed at a thrilling pace
- This performance and arrangement is sure to give its audience a new perspective on what Gershwin was trying to accomplish with his “experiment for piano and jazz band”
The New York Philharmonic performs the iconic An American In Paris.
This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the orchestra, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Rhapsody in Blue/An American in Paris have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
A Big Group Of Musicians Needs This Kind Of Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are more dynamic and exciting. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What We’re Listening For on Rhapsody in Blue/An American in Paris
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Rhapsody In Blue
An American In Paris
Rhapsody in Blue
Rhapsody in Blue is a 1924 musical composition by the American composer George Gershwin for solo piano and jazz band, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects.
The composition was commissioned by the bandleader Paul Whiteman. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé several times, including the original 1924 scoring, the 1926 “theater orchestra” setting, and the 1942 symphony orchestra scoring, though completed earlier. The piece received its premiere in the concert, An Experiment in Modern Music, which was held on February 12, 1924, in Aeolian Hall, New York City, by Whiteman and his band with Gershwin playing the piano.
The editors of the Cambridge Music Handbooks opined that “The Rhapsody in Blue (1924) established Gershwin’s reputation as a serious composer and has since become one of the most popular of all American concert works.”
An American in Paris
The piece is a true tone poem, inspired by extra-musical considerations — the sights, sounds, and moods of Paris.
Deems Taylor, the 1920s composer and critic, furnished a blow-by-blow program for the piece from which I quote a brief excerpt: “You are to imagine an American visiting Paris, swinging down the Champs-Elysées on a mild sunny morning in May or June….Our American’s ears being open as well as his eyes, he notes with pleasure the sounds of the city. French taxicabs seem to amuse him particularly.”
Although he claimed not to have a program in mind when he wrote the work, Gershwin did sketch his own general scenario: “[A]n opening section, in which an American visitor strolls about Paris and ‘absorbs the French atmosphere,’ is followed by a rich blues with a strong rhythmic undercurrent,” representing an episode of homesickness on the visitor’s part. But the American overcomes his spell of depression and once again revels in the sights and sounds of Paris. “At the conclusion,” according to the composer, “the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant.”