Gershwin’s Concerto in F has long been one of my favorite pieces of music, but now that I’ve heard Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the LA Philharmonic perform it (last night at the Hollywood Bowl) I have to say that I’d never really heard it before.
I’m not a connoisseur of pianists, but even my tin ear could hear the difference between Thibaudet’s performance and any other I’ve experienced. Astounding!
It made me think, yet again, about the tragedy of Gershwin’s early death.
As far as I can find, Thibaudet has never recorded the piece, though he’s performed it before. Here’s hoping.
The Bowl, which I had never visited before in nine years in LA, turns out to be a great place to hear music. We were way up in the nosebleed section, but the sound system and big-screen monitors were so good that I wouldn’t have wanted to be any closer. And the tickets, at $14 including the on-line handling fee, were an incredible bargain.
(As usual in Los Angeles, the downside was transportation. Parking at the Bowl is a well-known nightmare, but the uncomfortable bus from Westwood took more than an hour.)
My one cavil about the program was the odd sequencing of selections. The idea was to combine three Gershwin pieces (the Concerto in F, An American in Paris, and the I’ve Got Rhythm variations) with works by two of Gershwin’s arrangers, Ferde Grofé (Hollywood Suite) and Richard Rodney Bennett (Concerto Grosso for Dance Band and Orchestra). The Grofe and Bennett selections were pleasant enough to listen to, though I didn’t find them especially memorable. The program started with the Hollywood Suite, followed by the Concerto in F. After the intermission we heard I’ve Got Rhythm, then the Bennett concerto grosso, then American in Paris.
The problem, as it seemed to me, was that anything that followed the Concerto in F — even An American in Paris — was necessarily going to be an anticlimax. I would have started the program with An American in Paris and finished with the Concerto in F. If you can’t leave ’em laughing, leave ’em gasping for breath.
But all this is minor carping. That performance of the Concerto in F, in that beautiful setting under the stars, was a memory for a lifetime.