This is a generous package featuring a fine pianist and one of America's most underrated orchestras. Although conductors like Mata and Litton shaped the Dallas Symphony into a powerhouse, this program finds the orchestra in a more relaxed mood under the capable baton of Justin Brown. Anne-Marie McDermott might not be a household name, but she certainly understands the jazz idiom that this music demands, and the recorded sound is very fine.
However, some might find this disc a little too subdued. If you are accustomed to the original band scoring of the Rhapsodies, you may miss the hard-hitting accents and brassy snap. That said, there are beautiful moments here that make this disc worth owning. The softer moments of this music are wonderfully realized, and the lesser works – the Second Rhapsody, especially – are truly memorable. Certainly, this is preferable to Kunzel on Telarc (a little dull) or Slatkin on Vox (not ideally recorded).
Although Earl Wild or Michael Tilson Thomas on RCA are probably still your top picks, neither of those pianists offer as much music on one disc. As a convenient way to acquire all this music, while also supporting one of the most adventurous labels in the country, this project earns a warm recommendation.
Copyright © 2016, Brian Wigman