Post-Classical Ensemble spotlights Gershwin at Clarice Smith Center
Has every angle of Gershwin been covered? Not likely. That most American of composers continues to fascinate scholars, just as he continues to engage audiences. The DC-based Post-Classical Ensemble, which can be counted on to devise programs that offer abundant context and fresh perspective, offers "The Gershwin Project: Russian Gershwin" next week at the Clarice Smith Center.
The composer, born in New York to Russian immigrants, has long been more unabashedly admired by non-American musicians than his own countrymen. I still remember the way former BSO music director Yuri Temirkanov used to talk about Gershwin, always with the word "genius" said several times and with a sense of puzzlement over why some American orchestras seemed to think Gershwin was primarily for pops concerts.
As Joseph Horowitz, Post-Classical's artistic director, points out in program notes for next week's presentation, "eminent European-born musicians admired Gershwin without the qualms typically expressed by eminent Americans ... And so we should not be amazed that, behind the Iron Curtain, jazz and Gershwin were embraced with enthusiasm even when Soviet cultural propagandists looked askance."
To drive this point home, Post-Classical has engaged
Russians pianists for the concert on Sept. 24 -- Genadi Zagor and Vakhtang Kodanashvili, "products of Russian training [who] grew up in a musical culture that was never ambivalent about Gershwin."
Zagor will offer an improvisation on a Gershwin prelude and will improvise the solos in "Rhapsody in Blue," an unusual, but certainly Gershwin-esque, touch. Also on the concert will be the "Cuban Overture" and the Concerto in F. Angel Gil-Ordóñez, Post-Classical's music director, will conduct.
During a free concert on Sept. 21, Kodanashvili will play Gershwin songs and Zagor will improvise on the composer's music and take suggestions for more improvising from the audience. There will also be a free concert on Sept. 21 by the UM School of Music Faculty Jazz Ensemble featuring further takes on the great Gershwin songbook. Discussions are also part of the schedule. It should all make for interesting time in College Park.
SUN FILE PHOTO OF GERSHWIN; PHOTO OF ANGEL GIL-ORDONEZ BY TOM WOLFF