Piano-a-Deux: Porgy, Preludes and Paris – Gershwin arrangements for piano duo

review porgy and bess x1 cong

Husband and wife Robert and Linda Ang Stoodley have a wide repertoire from “the pops” (as the release notes say) to major classical works. They’re virtuoso performers. They are also accomplished arrangers.

For this new CD they play arrangements of George Gershwin, with works from the serious Porgy and Bess, to tin pan alley songs, often intertwined and merged.

The release notes comment: “Purists may frown but such arrangements, sampling and medleying were well known to Gershwin himself.” Well, we’re not purists but we’ve got a slight frown, too. We think the flaw is that it’s neither one thing nor the other. It’s great playing, and pianists will probably appreciate the four-handed performance, but we can see it not being loose enough for some fans and too dry for others.

It’s got a good live feel, though and there’s a lot of energy in the playing, which comes through. Scenes From Porgy And Bess, as its name suggests, is excerpts from the folk opera. It’s kind of bluesy and kind of cool but also not, not quite sure what it wants to be.
Prelude (Novelette in Fourths) is next and it’s a cake-walk — a dance developed from the prize walks — and it’s much more comfortable in its skin, a rather delicate but lively tune.

A ragtime (jazz but with just piano) follows, and again Rialto Ripples is pretty good, a well-behaved but jazz tinged track. In fact, it’s all good until towards the end, when An American in Paris Revisited goes back to being a little neither here nor there.

Not by any means a bad album, thanks to the quality of the playing and the music, but one we struggled to get a handle on. For fans of the piano, and maybe for fans of film scores, where superficially heavy music is delivered with a commercial touch.

Out on the always excellent Divine Art, DDA 25183.

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