17 Jun 2021

GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto in F

From Music Alive, 8:02 pm on 17 June 2021

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Performed by Somi Kim and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Holly Mathieson

Somi Kim

Somi Kim Photo: Liz Isles

A lot of people thought that the sensational Rhapsody in Blue by that successful songwriter, George Gershwin, was a happy accident, but George set out to prove that it wasn’t a fluke, and that there was "plenty more where that came from".

The conductor Walter Damrosch had been very impressed by the originality of the Rhapsody, so he asked Gershwin if he could compose a “proper” concerto.

Gershwin set off, studying harmony and orchestration, and after several months in 1925, he’d produced a work that built on American jazz and dance rhythms, worked out along more or less symphonic lines.

Gershwin was the soloist at the premier in 1925 in Carnegie Hall, with the New York Symphonic Society under Damrosch. Audiences loved it and on the whole, the reviews were glowing, but critics stumbled on the question of whether it should be classified as jazz or classical. The New York Times reviewer described the concerto as "a dubious experiment" and said that Gershwin had "neither the instinct nor the technical equipment to be at ease in a work of symphonic dimensions."

But on the other side, Musical Quarterly hailed it as “of a newness to be found nowhere except in these United States,” and for an English critic, it conjured a vision “that the whole of America was blossoming into beauty before me.” Henry Osgood proclaimed: “He gave us something really new in music".

South Korean-born New Zealander Somi Kim is best known to us as the pianist with NZ Trio.

Recorded by RNZ Concert in Auckland Town Hall, 17 June 2021
Engineer: Adrian Hollay; Producer: Tim Dodd