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Paul A. Snook
Fanfare, November 2008

the recognition due the multitalented chameleonic Russian-American…Vernon Duke is considerably advanced by Naxos’s pairing of his lithesome and luscious Piano and Cello Concertos…

To read the complete review, please visit Fanfare online.

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, September 2008

Shocking as it may seem, all three works on this program are world premiere recordings. The Piano Concerto is mostly a lightweight, frothy thing that seems to echo in harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary Prokofiev’s first two piano concertos, and to anticipate in style Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and An American in Paris…Scott Dunn has, as far as I can tell, done a splendid job of orchestrating the piece, and his playing of it is quite exhilarating.

The Cello Concerto is quite another business. A darker, gloomier, more serious, and overall more modem work, it is also, ironically, a more romantic piece deeply steeped in melody, its essence emanating from the lyrical gesture…Cellist Sam Magill plays the piece with sure-fingered technique, a great deal of conviction, and with a special expressiveness in the slow movement. The Russian Philharmonic under Dmitri Yablonsky provides solid and sympathetic performances in both concertos.

Written at the same time as the Cello Concerto, Duke’s solo piano suite, Homage to Boston, resembles neither of its disc mates. In fact, more than anything else, it echoes some of Aaron Copland’s solo piano ventures into a more advanced avant-garde or experimental style. I’m thinking of works like his Piano Sonata and Variations for Piano. Jagged, percussive, dissonant, even atonal, Homage to Boston strikes me as a work written by a man who didn’t much care for the place I doubt you will ever hear the piece in a spot promoting tourism. Still, according to Naxos, it hasn’t been heard on disc before, and Dunn sounds quite convinced by it.

Excellent performances and sound all around, plus world-premiere recordings, make for a strong recommendation for this, another winning addition to Naxos’s “American Classics” series.

Steven Suskin
Playbill, April 2008

It has long been known, by people who know such things, that the 23-year-old George Gershwin was duly impressed—and no doubt amused—when in 1922 he met Vernon Duke, an 18-year-old, conservatory-trained, modernist composer just off the boat from Russia (via Constantinople).

(Duke, of course, was the highbrow composer who would write a dozen Broadway musicals, most of them over the head of the general audience, including Cabin in the Sky and Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and songs such as “April in Paris,” “Taking a Chance on Love” and “I Can’t Get Started.”)

Gershwin, who had already achieved fame with “Swanee,” was amazed by the extent of Duke’s precocity and his musical knowledge. What we have just learned is that in the summer of 1923, Duke—at the behest of pianist Artur Rubinstein—wrote a piano concerto. Gershwin, who at this point didn’t know a concerto from a corn pipe, thought it was super and would invite Duke to play one of the themes at parties (to a baffled response, presumably). Duke’s concerto seems to have prodded Gershwin when, in early 1924, he dashed off his own initial symphonic attempt, “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Duke, meanwhile, went back across the Atlantic to jumpstart his career in Paris. (His trip was funded, to a great extent, by some arranging jobs arranged by Gershwin…) In Paris, Duke played his still-unperformed and unorchestrated Concerto for Sergei Diaghilev, who immediately commissioned Vernon—or Vladimir Dukelsky, as he was known in serious music circles—to write “Zephyr et Flore” for the Ballets Russes.

The Concerto got lost in the shuffle, though a two-piano version was published in Paris in 1926. Seventy-odd years later, American pianist Scott Dunn found a copy, orchestrated it with the permission of Kay Duke Ingalls, and played the world premiere in January 1999 at Carnegie Hall. The piece has now made it to CD, where it is revealed to be—well, modernist, circa 1923. What can I say? George liked it, and that’s good enough for me. Duke’s Cello Concerto was commissioned during World War II and premiered in January 1947 with Sergei Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony, with Gregor Piatigorsky as soloist. It similarly makes its CD debut, with Sam Magill on cello. The concerti are rounded out by “Homage to Boston,” a seven-part piano composition Duke wrote in 1945. This Naxos CD is only for diehard Duke fans, I suppose; but as a diehard Duke fan, I find it a fascinating addition to the available catalogue.

American Record Guide, March 2008

Born Vladimir Dukelsky in 1903, this composer studied in Kiev with Glière before fleeing the Russian Revolution in 1920. Moving to New York City in 1922, he re-christened himself Vernon Duke at the suggestion of his pal George Gershwin and, along with chamber and orchestral music (including three symphonies), wrote ballets (one was a notable success for Diaghilev) and film music as well as songs for Broadway. Several of these last were commercial hits and have since become jazz and popular standards (‘Autumn in New York’, ‘Taking a Chance on Love’, ‘April in Paris’). Duke was also a poet and made highly-regarded translations of modern American poetry into Russian. In addition he published his memoirs, and late in his life (he died in 1969) he wrote a clever, garrulous, gossipy polemic on American music called Listen Here that’s aged pretty well, remaining lively and informative. His acid chapter on ‘The Deification of Stravinsky’ offers a fascinating up-close view of Russian emigre artists that should be required reading for anyone interested in those gifted, competitive, malicious, backbiting, embittered souls cast adrift by their benighted homeland.

There’s an excellent program of Duke’s songs sung by Dawn Upshaw on Nonesuch 79531 (July/Aug 1999), but his concert pieces were never much recorded. A couple of early LPs of chamber pieces came out on the Contemporary label, and (until now) just two works that I could find on CD: his charming early ballet Zephyr et Flore on Chandos 9766 (listed under Vladimir Dukelsky) and a short piano trio on Music & Arts 952. The two concertos and the seven-movement suite for solo piano titled Homage to Boston on this Naxos CD are first recordings.

Duke wrote his single-movement, 18 ­minute Piano Concerto in C in 1923 to fulfill Arthur Rubinstein’s request for a “one-movement piano concerto, pianistically grateful and not too cerebral”. (This must have happened almost exactly when Gershwin was writing Rhapsody in Blue, a work that Duke singles out in Listen Here as the first homegrown American masterpiece to gain international recognition.) For whatever reason, Duke never got around to orchestrating his concerto, and it was only scored in 1998, by pianist Scott Dunn (who plays it here), and first performed a year later.

The Cello Concerto and Homage to Boston are much later works, both completed in 1945. The Cello Concerto was commissioned and premiered (in 1947) by Koussevitzky and Piatigorsky, and the great Russian cellist played it several times in Europe.

Duke’s music, as you’d predict, is audience-pleasing, modern-romantic, and cosmopolitan. There are more than a few echoes of Duke’s friend Prokofieff, 12 years his senior-though not the older man’s incisive bite or unparalleled melodic genius-and evidence of his admiration of Stravinsky, Poulenc, and Ravel. The solo writing in both concertos is expert and canny, with a nice balance of display and sentiment. The piano concerto has a vernacular flavor, often breaking out into breezy waltzes, with both lyrical and jaunty themes drawn from the same well as Duke’s popular songs. It’s an amiable but rather tossed-together item, lacking the juice needed to secure a place in the repertoire anytime soon.

The 1945 Cello Concerto is a full-scale, three-movement work lasting 27 minutes. This is a more assured and mature composition that achieves the persuasive stylistic and structural integrity that eluded Duke in his earlier piano concerto, enhanced by imaginative but transparent scoring that works wonderfully well for soloist and orchestra. Especially in this very-well-recorded and flat-out magnificent performance by cello soloist Sam Magill and the Russian Philharmonic led by Dmitri Yablonsky, Duke’s Concerto seizes and rewards the listener’s attention, approaching the stature of comparable works in the genre by Kabalevsky, Shostakovich, and Barber. The central adagietto in particular is moving and memorable, combining eloquence, nobility, and resignation -surely a response to the terrible war that was ending as Duke was writing this music.

With numbers titled ‘Molly’, ‘The Poet and His Wife’, ‘Dining at the Ritz’, ‘Midnight Train’, and so on, Homage to Boston is 12 minutes of affable, mildly jazzy, mildly wistful music that wouldn’t be out of place in an upscale cocktail lounge. It’s rather like Rorem at his most relaxed-pleasant, well-put-together, but nothing more than that. The discovery here is the fine Cello Concerto.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, February 2008

This is a superb disk…it’s fine stuff from a composer who has never really received his due, and whose concert works are woefully unrepresented on disk these days. The performances are totally committed, everyone playing for all they are worth, and the recorded sound has everything well in perspective with a good balance between soloist and orchestra. The solo Suite is equally well done. One of the very best, and, for me, most interesting, releases in Naxos’s American Classics series.

R.E.B., January 2008

Vernon Dukelsky was born in Russia in 1903 and studied with Reinhold Glière at the Kiev Conservatory. A fellow student was Prokofiev who became a lifelong friend and mentor. In 1922, Dukelsky came to New York and became associated with some notable figures on the musical scene including George Gershwin who suggested he shorten his last name to “Duke.” After hearing some of the young composer’s piano works, Arthur Rubinstein suggested he compose for him “a one-movement piano concerto, pianistically grateful and not too cerebral,” which resulted in the work heard on this CD, which never was orchestrated by the composer, nor performed during his lifetime. Although Rubinstein expressed some interest in the concerto, nothing came of it. In 1998, American pianist/conductor Scott Dunn orchestrated the concerto and played the premiere January 10, 1999 in Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies. It’s easy to understand Rubinstein’s lack of enthusiasm; this 18-minute concerto doesn’t amount to much. However, Duke’s Cello Concerto composed in 1945 is of considerably more substance and interest although hardly an unjustly neglected masterpiece. This was commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky and Gregor Piatigorsky who gave the premiere in January 1947 in Boston’s Symphony Hall. Piatigorsky also performed the work with other orchestras at the time, but the concerto was neglected after that. This 3-movement 27-minute concerto is a work with plenty of opportunity for the soloist for virtuoso display. Performances on this CD are outstanding; Scott Dunn does what can be done with the piano concerto, and Sam Magill gives a masterful reading of the cello concerto. The disk is filled out with a short suite for solo piano, Homage to Boston, written at the same time as the cello concerto, with 7 short movements each with descriptive titles, one of which is a charming gavotte parody of Prokofiev.

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, January 2008

I can just picture the scene: Prokofiev on a shopping spree with a friend in Macy’s in 1938, buying a laundry-list of things to take back to Russia. The friend? Vladimir Dukelsky, known in the United States, and professionally, as Vernon Duke. Russian-émigré Duke was a friend and admirer of Prokofiev, and Prokofiev’s influence is evident in Duke’s serious music. The Piano and Cello Concertos here are among the best examples of that influence.

Duke, who became better known for his Broadway shows (Cabin in the Sky, Walk a Little Faster, Thumbs Up, etc.) and the numerous hits from them (Autumn in New York, April in Paris, Taking a Chance on Love, etc.), led a parallel career as a composer of concertos, ballets, symphonies and other classical works. Prokofiev promoted Duke’s serious music in Russia and it’s not hard to see why.

Overall, one can say that Duke was a composer with the ability to create memorable tunes and employ them with interesting harmonies and catchy rhythms. He may not quite have had Prokofiev’s gift for melody, but certainly he was ahead of Shostakovich and Stravinsky, in this respect. One can only wonder how well Duke would have fared, had he devoted his entire career to serious music.

Because of other important projects, the 1923 Piano Concerto was never orchestrated by the composer, despite the promise of a premiere by Arthur Rubinstein, for whom it was written. Scott Dunn, the soloist here, completed the orchestration and premiered the work in 1999. The concerto opens with a mocking, playful, rather Prokofievian theme, and there soon follows a lovely second theme that George Gershwin, also a Duke acquaintance, found utterly enchanting in private performances given by the composer. Other attractive material is presented and the themes are developed imaginatively over the course of this one-movement, 18-minute work. In the end, the piece comes across as light and quite engaging, a work that deserves more than rediscovery and a single recording. One might hope for an occasional performance in a major venue and a few more recordings. Dunn’s performance and the Dmitry Yablonsky-led Russian Philharmonic Orchestra sound absolutely convincing in this premiere Naxos CD.

The Cello Concerto (1945) is similarly light, but perhaps a bit more substantial too. It is even more colorfully scored, which is not to suggest that Dunn’s orchestration for the piano concerto is somehow inferior. No, it’s just that Duke apparently wanted to produce a score for cello that was not subdued or somber or mellow, like more than a few concertos for this instrument. In the first movement, passages dominated by the soloist often alternate with contrasting, i.e., busy or heavily-scored, passages where the orchestra holds sway (the movement opens and closes with a cadenza for the soloist), but in the infectious, Shostakovich-tinged finale the cello and orchestra are somewhat better integrated. The second movement gives a nod or two in the opening moments to Stravinsky in some of the wind scoring, but the haunting main theme is of Duke’s own imaginative devising. Cellist Sam Magill turns in fine work here and is nicely abetted by Yablonsky and company.

The piano work Homage to Boston (Suite for Piano Solo) was published in 1945. Comprised of seven movements and lasting over twelve minutes, it depicts people and sites associated with Boston. One of those depicted is Prokofiev (he appeared in Boston several times to perform with the Serge Koussevitzky-led Boston Symphony Orchestra). Prokofiev is given a gavotte, one that sounds vaguely similar to the famous gavotte in the Classical Symphony. The closing piece, Midnight Train, actually sounds more like Prokofiev than anything else in the music. Homage to Boston is an engaging work, with an often bluesy character. Again, Scott Dunn performs the work with utter commitment and a complete sense for Duke’s colorful style.

In the end, one can only conclude that this disc was highly enjoyable and featured excellent sound and performances throughout. If you want to try something different and new, something accessible with engaging tunes, this disc may just be the ticket.

William Kreindler
MusicWeb International, January 2008

The Russian composer Vladimir Dukelsky was born in 1903. The American composer Vernon Duke was born in America about twenty years later when his friend George Gershwin suggested that Dukelsky use his Russian name for serious compositions and the Anglo-Saxon name for the musical shows and songs he had started writing. Both composers were successful in their respective fields, but in 1955 the two personalities were merged under the Duke name. On this disc we have the concert composer, including at least two world premieres.

The earliest composed piece on this disc is the one-movement Piano Concerto, which has an interesting history. The nineteen-year-old composer wrote it for Artur Rubinstein after emigrating to America because of the Russian Revolution. He never orchestrated it and Rubinstein never played it, although a two-piano version was published. Not until 1998 did the soloist on this disc, Scott Dunn, orchestrate it and give the first performance. From the first thematic statements we can tell that we are in the presence of an admirer of Prokofieff and Stravinsky—Duke was close with both composers. Les Six also make an appearance. In the “development” things become more serious and Duke proves himself capable of some very imaginative thematic development. There are a number of tempo changes in this section before a fine return of the secondary theme. After short cadenzas for the piano and the cello, the pianist launches into a second cadenza which leads to some excellent final development of the original material.

Homage to Boston is a suite of piano evocations of life in Boston, a town that Duke spent much time in as Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony gave many premieres of his concert works. The idiom here still retains many aspects of the style evinced in the piano concerto, but the harmony is more dissonant and the handling of materials more integrated. This piece and the cello concerto are the works of an imaginative, mature composer. The Charles River is the main river of Boston and it literally flows along smoothly. Nearby Boston Common is quieter than the river—perhaps it’s night. Molly was a young lady about whom Duke was quite serious and that may explain the thicker texture and more advanced harmony in this piece. I don’t know which poet is depicted in the Poco Pomposo, but this title could probably apply to many New England poets, although the jazzy part at the end is surprising. Dining at the Ritz seems pretty generic, but the Prokofieff [recital?] in Louisburg Sq. is an interesting contrast. Finally, the Midnight Train takes us back, presumably to New York, and we feel that this was a very good visit.

Like Homage to Boston, the Cello Concerto is the work of a mature composer and shows a depth of feeling not evident in the other two works, as well as a rich combination of the composer’s Russian and American stylistic elements. In the first movement a sorrowful cadenza is followed by a serious first section and then a more satirical part reminiscent of Stravinsky. These are combined into an effective recapitulation before another cello cadenza. The second movement is slightly more American in style. It is mostly scored with a few winds accompanying the cello. The soloist himself is frequently called upon to play in a higher register than in the rest of the work and the part becomes progressively sadder in tone as the movement continues. Finally we have a sort of march-like scherzo with alternating virtuoso and gentle interludes. The gentle, somewhat sad, parts win out in the end, although the coda is traditional.

As the reviver or resuscitator of Duke’s Concerto, Dunn’s performance will remain standard even if there are other recordings. He has an excellent feel for Duke’s alternations between concert hall and cabaret/night club and demonstrates this especially in some of the pieces in Homage to Boston. Magill adopts a more measured approach to his concerto, but this pays off well in the parts requiring the middle register of the cello and he excels at projecting the sorrowful tone of certain sections of the piece. Yablonsky is competent as always, although one feels that he is not totally in sympathy with Duke. The sound in the Moscow hall leaves something to be desired in the way of richness; less brittle music would only further emphasize this aspect. The Glenn Gould Studio is better suited to its music.

Naxos American Classics has performed a genuine service this time in recording music that many must have wondered about, but probably never thought they would hear.

A further perspective from Rob Barnett—Vladimir Dukelsky took the name ‘Vernon Duke’ at the suggestion of George Gershwin. He began as a pupil of Glière alongside Prokofiev in Kiev. Fleeing the Russian Revolution Dukelsky went to the USA and there lived a double life. This disc concentrates on his neglected concert works.

The brilliant and gangling Piano Concerto was written for Rubinsten who wanted something compact, pianistically grateful and not too cerebral. It fits the bill completely, glinting with bright jangling orchestration and alive with neo-classical brusqueness. Works and composers evoked include Prokofiev (Classical Symphony and Love of Three Oranges), the Stravinsky of Pulcinella and Petrushka, Auric, Milhaud, the jazzy Lambert, Poulenc and even Grainger’s The Warriors. There is also a strong sentimental-romantic thread running through this music. It is all done with swoon and scintillation by Dunn—who completed the work—and his colleagues.

The Cello Concerto is a different proposition. It leaves behind the carnival high jinks of the Piano Concerto. Instead this is music of impassioned and nuanced romantic concentration. Determinedly tonal it is melancholy, soulful and sentimental. A fine work, it is unshowy, sincere and memorable. In short a wonderful addition to the potentially active repertoire of accomplished cellists everywhere. It melodic content is moving in much the same way as the themes and treatment in Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony.

The seven movement solo piano suite is affectingly romantic, playful, taut and grand in the manner of Barber’s Souvenirs.

Duke made a living in the USA in the field of musicals and popular music. Clearly he had other facets. Exploration of his three symphonies must now be a priority.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2007

Vernon Duke, as he became known in the United States, was born in Russia in 1903 as Vladimir Dukelsky, and at the age of twelve was admitted to the Kiev Conservatory as a composition student of Glière, sharing that privilege with Prokofiev. The Revolution saw the family fleeing and eventually arriving in the States in 1922. There the young man drew interest from influential musicians including the pianist, Arthur Rubinstein, who suggested that he should write a Piano Concerto for him. That reached the stage of a two-piano score awaiting orchestration when Rubinstein took him to Paris where the young man, together with the composer, Georges Auric, on the second piano, played the concerto to Dyagilev. He requested the twenty-one year old to write a score for the Ballets Russes, the outcome being Zephyr et Flore to choreography by the great Leonide Massine. It was a success and probably put on hold the orchestration of the concerto, which, in the event was never completed. On his return to the States he became fascinated by musicals, and was, under his new name, Vernon Duke, to contribute to numerous shows, often working in conjunction with such lyricists as Ira Gershwin. Many of his songs became huge hits, his ‘serious’ scores, which included three symphonies and several ballets now residing in history books. The American pianist, Scott Dunn, became fascinated with the story of the unfinished concerto, and set about completing the orchestration, though in the short score Dukelsky had given no indication as to the instruments he required. Dunn decided to use a mix of style from other Dukelsky scores with a hint of Prokofiev. It was completed in 1999 and is totally persuasive, the piece quite lightweight in texture and would have been described as ‘conventional’ by the style of writing in the early 1920’s. The Cello Concerto is a much more advanced score completed in 1945, after Duke’s service in the Second World War, and with more of a suggestion of the sadness brought about by that conflict. It had been commissioned in 1942 by the great conductor, Sergey Koussevitzky, for the legendary cellist, Gregor Piatigorsky. It was they who gave the premiere with the Boston Symphony, Piatigorsky, who had worked with Duke on the solo part, placing it in his repertoire. The Homage to Boston was a picture of people and scenes related to Boston in seven sections for solo piano. That was also completed in 1945 and is a salon piece of attractive cameos. Scott Dunn makes out a good case for the work, the cello soloist in the concerto, Sam Magill, dealing readily with the score’s many challenges. With the Russian Philharmonic and Dmitry Yablonsky on the rostrum, the orchestral playing is very good, and the sound quality throughout of high quality.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, November 2007

His real name was Vladimir Dukelsky, who studied composition at the Kiev Conservatory under Reinhold Glière. One of his fellow students was Sergei Prokofiev. He became a U.S. citizen, and served as a lieutenant in the Coast Guard (1939–44). He is best known for song hits of the 1930s, such as ‘April in Paris’,‘Taking a Chance on Love’, et sim. He was a great friend of George Gershwin, who suggested the name change. But Duke also had a serious side to his composing, such as several ballets (one of them, Zephyr et Flore, commissioned by Diaghilev), an opera, 3 symphonies, a violin concerto, and many other works in various forms. He had formed the Society for Forgotten Music (SFM)that championed the performance and recording of worthwhile music by little-known composers. We had met Vernon and his wife Kaye, a singer, through our mutual friend Nicolas Slonimsky, and this venture (SFM)was the genesis of Orion Master Recordings. The Piano Concerto, left unorchestrated, was completed by the soloist, Scott Dunn. In it, one can trace a tribute to George Gershwin. The Cello Concerto is a large-scale, openly romantic work in three movements. Duke’s music is tuneful and accessible. Both concertos are lovingly performed, as well as the Homage to Boston Suite.

John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, November 2007

These are all world premiere recordings of concert music from the pen of the composer of such hit songs in the Great American Songbook as April in Paris, Autumn in New York, and I Can’t Get Started. The composer’s “serious” works were published under his original name: Vladimir Dukelsky. He contributed to more than 17 American and British musicals, and worked with such lyricists as Ira Gershwin and Ogden Nash.

Both George Gershwin and Arthur Rubinstein took an interest in the talents of the 19-year-old Dukelsky when he arrived in New York City. Rubinstein asked him for a single-movement piano concerto, “not too cerebral.” This piano concerto in C was the result, a work the composer had conceived originally back in Russia as early as 1919. But somehow it was never orchestrated or performed by Rubinstein. In 1998 pianist and conductor Scott Dunn orchestrated it, working from the original two-piano score. The Cello Concerto is a more formal three-movement work, influenced by Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Shostakovich. Gregor Piatigorsky performed the work at its premiere in l947. The Bostonian Suite for solo piano was dedicated to members of the Boston Symphony—its seven movements portray people and places in Boston. Taken together, these three works show another side of Vernon Duke’s undeniable composing skills and support the need for a revival of more of his music.

Uncle Dave Lewis, November 2007

American composer Vernon Duke was also publicly known by his given name as Vladimir Dukelsky, particularly in connection with his concert music and poetry. It is more common for posterity to refer to the composer as “Vernon Duke” whether in writing classical music or popular; the standards he wrote for musicals, such as “April in Paris” and “Autumn in New York” have such a strong jazz feel some have even developed the impression that Duke had to be an African-American! Actually, Duke was Russian-born, and in a purely cultural sense, this student of Glière and close friend to Prokofiev never got very far from his Russian roots in his concert music, though there, too, a trace of the telltale influence of Tin Pan Alley can be detected.

Not very many of Duke’s classical works have been circulated before the release of Naxos American Classics’ Vernon Duke: Piano Concerto, which includes two major pieces and a charming piano suite, Homage to Boston (1945), none of which have ever appeared on recordings before. The neo-classic Concerto in C minor (1923) has at least one good reason why not, as for some reason Duke never orchestrated the work and here it is presented in an orchestration by Scott Dunn, who also performs the solo piano part and is heard in the suite. He clearly has an affinity for Duke’s piano idiom, which seems to fall right into the middle of Duke’s two favorite composers, Gershwin and Prokofiev.

The Cello Concerto (1945) was written for Gregor Piatigorsky and listeners familiar with the kinds of gestures Piatigorsky favored—for example, those in Lukas Foss’ Capriccio for Cello and Piano—will find some commonality with that approach, not to mention a nod to Stravinsky here and there. Cellist Sam Magill once studied with Piatigorsky’s pupil Lawrence Lesser, and he understands Piatigorsky’s sweeping, lurching, leaping, and frequent use of pizzicato; in this recording, Magill almost seems to resurrect the ghost of the great man himself. Dmitry Yablonsky’s handling of the Russian Philharmonic is somewhat independent minded and brassy in both concerti, but for that matter so are Duke’s scores, in which the ripieno tends not to support the soloists so much as run a kind of interference against them.

Naxos’ recording was made in a studio at KULTURA, formerly belonging to Soviet TV and radio; it is a very loud space, which works great for the concerti, but is a little distant for the solo piano music. Nevertheless, these works represent Duke’s efforts in classical music at its peak and are well performed to boot. For anyone interested in the concert side of Vernon Duke, Naxos American Classics’ Vernon Duke: Piano Concerto should prove better than sufficient and for those new to his concert music—which would be most listeners—it may well be revelatory.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group