Friday, September 14, 2018

Rhapsody 21 (1962)--Paul Whiteman, w. Sondra Bianca, Pianist

Buster and I were wondering who Suzanne Auber is (she's still with us at the age of 87!), and I got Google-lucky and found out that "Suzanne Auber" was one of a number of budget-label pseudonyms for the superb concert pianist Sondra Bianca.  Here she is, playing for Paul Whiteman and credited by the World's Fair Records label under her actual name.

The "Suzanne Auber" pseudonym, by the way, appeared on last post's selection, Music of South Pacific and Oklahoma.

Critics complain about George Gershwin's allegedly poor sense of form (on long works), and I'll concede he was no Grofe in that regard, but he kept things moving.  Those critics might reconsider their complaint after hearing this poor man's Warsaw Concerto called Rhapsody 21, an adventure in repetition in which each permutation of the main theme is so obviously the main theme, what would Chopin say?  Some of Chopin's extraordinary Etudes are the same phrase over and over until the final measure, but so brilliantly developed, there aren't words to describe how brilliantly.  Rhapsody 21 is the same chunk of music repeated either literally or almost literally, with connecting passages that might have worked as silent movie organ stings.  Okay, I'm being mean, because this lightweight piece is actually very entertaining and skillfully scored.  And Sonia is terrific.  Just don't expect anything remotely close to Rhapsody in Blue, and you're all set.

I edited both sides together--the cut-off beginning of side 2 was not my doing!

Click here to hear: Rhapsody 21

Rhapsody 21 (Toni Mineo, Orch. by Attillo Mineo)

Sonia Bianca, Pianist, w. Paul Whiteman (World's Fair Records STV 82083/4; 1962)



Buster said...

A Warsaw Concerto clone at that late date, eh? I thought it had gone out of fashion by then.

This sounds like it could be delightful - and I love the picture disk, as any record collector would.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

It comes up at Zippy as a playable file, so you can avoid the pop-up junk if you wish!

mel said...

Wikipedia didn't mention Sondra Bianca's all-Gershwin M-G-M LP (1956) on which she performed Variations on "I Got Rhythm", Second Rhapsody For Piano And Orchestra, Cuban Overture (orchestra only, the Pro-Musica Symphony Orchstra of Hamburg conducted by Hans-Jurgen Walther) and the three Preludes, which I have in my collection.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

That sounds awesome! Is it MGM E-3307? Weirdly enough, Discogs has two listings for that LP, one showing only The Variations and Three Preludes. Must be a mis-listing.

Check out this one:

DonHo57 said...

Another phenomenal find, Lee. I agree with your take on Gershwin's composition habits and foibles, but his music to me is always so fun and exciting to listen to. Unless the musicians are offering a really bad take on it. Thanks.

mel said...

Yes, Lee, it's MGM E-3307. I guess that there must have been either two separate recordings or two different editions of the same recording.

When I bought it,in the late 1950s, I had never heard any of the compositions except the Preludes, and, as a big Gershwin fan, was very excited when I found it.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


I first heard of the Second Rhapsody from the LP of Paul Whiteman's 1938 memorial concert. Love the beginning, but it goes nowhere....

I'd love to find that MGM 3-record set, but the chances are slim. The local thrifts mostly contain pop stuff.

DonHO57--Were you born in '57, by any chance? That means we're both just as old--er, young. I've done a little checking up on Alan Gershwin's claims to be George's son, which I first found out about in a GG biography (which one, not sure). His resemblance to GG in the book photo is so uncanny, I figured it had to be true. But what I've read lately makes his claim doubtful. Allegedly, hair from GG's sister Frances was DNA tested and showed Alan to not be related, but this claim, like Alan's many claims (some of which are crazy), is not for sure. Alan's behavior was very weird, though that doesn't prove conclusively he was a fraud. But the burden of proof was on him, not the Gershwin family, and he never met it. I'd rate his son-of-GG claim as unlikely.


Let me know what you think of "Rhapsody 21"--curious to get your take. Much of it sounded like "Warsaw Concerto" lite to me, but every ear hears things differently. Every set of ears, I should say.

Buster said...

Lee - No question that it is school of the Warsaw Concerto. The main theme (or at least the most repeated phrase) is uncomfortably close to the main theme of Charles Williams' The Dream of Olwen, from the film While We Live. I did enjoy the piece; while it is shapeless, as you note, it's very well played.

David Federman said...

It sounds like a rejected rapture-theme for one those wonderful Douglas Sirk movies of the 1950s that starred Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson. Too Hollywood for Hollywood!

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Hi, David. Long time no hear! From, I mean.

Yes, this could have worked for one of those Sirk flicks. I like those, by the way. Elegant camp, sort of.

David Federman said...

Lee, You had the bravery to defend Mitch Miller. Because of you, or thanks to same, I bought Mitch's superb albums, "Music Until Midnight" and "It's So Peaceful in the Country." Although he 'earned' (urned?) the enmity of Frank Sinatra, he also earned the veneration of Alec Wilder--another of my heroes. Now you're relaunching your latest crusade on behalf of The King of Jazz. Bless you for this. Hey, ain't love better the second time around? And I, too, love those Sirk films. So does--obviously--director Todd Haynes!