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Brian Wigman
Classical Net, November 2014

…Orion Weiss is a fabulous pianist…He gives the Concerto its most serious reading I’ve heard to date…the jazz elements aren’t shortchanged, they are here in abundance. Tempos are slower…JoAnn Falletta and Weiss wisely use the extra time to sharpen the rhythmic profile of the work, and also allow for a wealth of detail to be exposed. The Buffalo Philharmonic lavishes immense care on the score, adding to the sense of renewal and discovery. JoAnn Falletta is a terrific conductor of American music as well, and she collaborates effortlessly with her soloist.

In the rarely-heard Rhapsody #2, Weiss remains a compelling advocate…Falletta and her players simply play the daylights out of it, clearly relishing the catchy wind solos and brass outbursts. You’ll love it, and probably want to sample it again. © 2014 Classical Net Read complete review

Dave Saemann
Fanfare, July 2012

This is Gershwin with a bit of a twist. As a Gershwin conductor, [JoAnn Falletta] virtually excels herself. The Buffalo Philharmonic produces a big, beautifully proportioned sound—rich in texture with lovely playing by the first chairs, including the important trumpet solo in the slow movement of the concerto. This is world-class Gershwin; Falletta really swings. The twist I mentioned comes from the soloist, Orion Weiss. He is a thoughtful and scrupulous pianist, with a fine technique. Weiss plays Gershwin as if he were playing Mozart, with lucidity and limpidness. What Weiss does contribute is an authentic sense of personality…Artur Schnabel spoke of music that is greater than any possible performance of it. Well, Gershwin in these works is a great composer, and I feel that there is a place in the pantheon of Gershwin interpretation even for what Weiss does. I doubt that any Gershwin aficionado will feel cheated by this CD. Veteran producer Tim Handley captures these renditions in full and luminous sound…© 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Bill O'Connell
WCLV, July 2012

David Hurwitz of calls this disc “a very pleasant surprise…the Second Rhapsody, comes across as a work of impressive brilliance and depth” in this performance. “The same goes for the Variations, given a bold, gutsy performance with plenty of pizzazz.” Of the 1925 Concerto in F Major, this recording, says Mr. Hurwitz, “…is one of the more thoughtful and beautiful versions of the work to come out in recent years. The disc is also very well recorded aand sounds quite impressive.”…the disc is a steal! © 2012 WCLV Read complete review

Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, May 2012

Weiss is a pianist I’d never heard of…I find him very easy to like. The tunes roll off the piano with unaffected charm and lyrical shape; Weiss’s entrance in the adagio is so perfectly done it gives me chills. The Buffalo Philharmonic, under JoAnn Falletta, are his equals, and the partnership is a truly inspired one with a real sense of synergy (try the first movement at 10:18). The orchestral players often steal the show, in fact, as when the strings surge in at 8:30 in the adagio and slip back tenderly forward at 10:18, or in the exquisite woodwind solos which end the movement.

Next up is the Rhapsody No 2…I’m glad that such a glittery performance (listen to the trumpets from 1:50-2:10!) is delivered here, Weiss and the Buffalo players matching each other’s incredible enthusiasm. This rhapsody isn’t on its predecessor’s level—the swooning violin tune, with its luxurious portamenti, has nothing on the tune in Blue—but it’s still more of a delight than its obscurity suggests, and Gershwin’s rather childlike excitement with the possibilities of orchestral music is matched by the glee with which these players take care of the piece.

The disc concludes with the delightful “I Got Rhythm” Variations, and again the orchestra enters into the Gershwin with spirited playing. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Julie Amacher
Minnesota Public Radio, May 2012

On their latest release, JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic are wrapped up in the music of the great American composer George Gershwin. Falletta believes this music is a natural fit for the Buffalo Philharmonic. “Those rhythms, the kind of swinging quality that Gershwin has, the easiness of it. It’s not easy to play, but there’s kind of a swing that feels natural, that feels American, that’s in our vernacular. It was really tailor-made for the BPO. It was so much fun to do this.”

American pianist Orion Weiss is the featured soloist on this new release. On this Gershwin recording, his first with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta says Weiss shared a new perspective, “Orion Weiss was a wonderful partner to us because he brought his own take on Gershwin as a very young person—the kind of swagger of it. But he added a sort of elegance and classical balance that made us think about the music in a different way.”

Gershwin’s Concerto in F [is]…lyrical, it’s evocative, it’s jazzy, it’s filled with pizzazz, it’s very difficult, and it’s one of the great pieces in our American repertoire!

The final movement of Gershwin’s Concerto in F is percussive, dramatic and it provides a wonderful segue into his Rhapsody No. 2. Falletta says “… it’s upbeat, it’s dashing, it’s really immensely challenging for the pianist. It’s a brilliant piece and brilliantly scored as well.”

This new release closes out with a piece that was one of Gershwin’s favorites. JoAnn Falletta says that the I Got Rhythm Variations, is one of her favorites, too, “…He was able to use rhythm in the most appealing, natural, jazzy, unique way.” © 2012 Minnesota Public Radio Read complete review

Jason Victor Serinus
San Francisco Classical Voice, May 2012

On this new Naxos CD, all but the grossly over-recorded Rhapsody in Blue receive bang-up, knock down treatment in the hands of 30-year old Orion Weiss. The Classical Recording Foundation’s 2010 Young Artist of the Year, who puts his all into the music, receives rousing support from Music Director JoAnn Falletta and her Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

…Weiss sounds more weighty than insouciant as he plays up a storm. The Concerto in F gives him relatively few measures to display sensitivity and shading, though he makes the most of them. Then he begins to fly all over the keyboard, often banging away as though the construction of the Empire State Building is at stake.

The Rhapsody No. 2, initially titled Rhapsody in Rivets, then New York Rhapsody, grew out of Gershwin’s engagement by Fox Studios to compose a six-minute interlude for its forthcoming film Delicious. Because the movie sequence briefly showed rivets tossed about, then hammered into steel girders, Gershwin gave to the piano’s opening bars the unmistakable sound of you-know-what. One way or another, the riveting never stops. With orchestration far more sophisticated than in the Concerto, the performance is irresistible.

Basing it on the hit melody from his 1930 musical Girl Crazy, Gershwin composed his I Got Rhythm Variations for Piano and Orchestra for a four-week concert tour that he undertook with Damrosch’s New York Symphony. The piano has but a few bars to ruminate before, bang!, the orchestra starts, paving the way for the piano’s initial dance through the melody. Then matters get far more complex, with variations that jump from jazz to a tongue-in-cheek, rather inebriated waltz, then to Gershwin’s imitation of out-of-tune Chinese flutes. Gershwin seems to be laughing all the way.

…unless you desire a more authentic approach with greater glint in the eye, or favor different instrumental and sonic balances, you’ll likely be so enamored of Weiss’ driving that you jump into the passenger’s seat without regard for the road signs that he whizzes past. © 2012 San Francisco Classical Voice Read complete review

Peter Dickinson
Gramophone, May 2012

If we have to have yet another recording of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto, there are things to admire in this one. Orion Weiss never engages in the kind of exaggeration which some pianists have used to define their identity and his dry rhythmic delivery is thoroughly idiomatic.

In the Adagio…Weiss is perky…in the faster middle section…the orchestra serves him well, with a fulsome tam-tam just before the last climax, not an apologetic ping as in some recordings.

…it is exploratory Gershwin as he moves towards Porgy and Bess, with greater harmonic resource, vivid orchestration and better continuity…All these pieces get snappy performances in well-balanced, clear recordings: an enjoyable collection. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Culture Catch, April 2012

if you’re in the market for an inexpensive alternative reading in excellent sound, rising star Weiss and company are worth hearing, and the other two items here, also for piano and orchestra, make for a more interesting program than the usual Rhapsody in Blue pairing. The Rhapsody No. 2 deserves to be better known; it is a colorful celebration of New York, and gets a joyously sensual reading here. The variations on his most famous tune make a scintillating conclusion. As for Weiss and Falletta’s take on the concerto, its jazz elements sound completely natural (never a given), with rhythms sharp and lively, and the languid aspects are played up deliciously in a more tender reading than the norm…As Weiss shape the concerto, it’s a major work of seriousness and weight. That’s a welcome approach. © 2012 Culture Catch Read complete review

John Whitmore
MusicWeb International, April 2012

There are two extreme ways of approaching the concerto—either as an orchestrated piece of jazz or as a romantic piano concerto with jazz influences. JoAnn Falletta and her virtuoso soloist present the latter view and very good it is too. Nothing is overstated or interpreted to death. The music is allowed to speak for itself. There’s clearly a good rapport between conductor and soloist…the whole thing is as smooth as silk. The musicians produce a sophisticated, creamy orchestral sound rather than one inspired by the world of jazz. The marvellous string tune at 8:30 is a knock-out, played with just enough schmaltz without it becoming cloying. The finale—not the strongest of movements—zips along nicely and brings the concerto to a very exciting conclusion.

The young soloist, Orion Weiss, has…that special gift of making you listen to what he has to say. There’s nothing barnstorming or aggressive about his work. His perfect technique is there to serve the music and he doesn’t use it to browbeat the audience. Some will criticize the concerto for not being flashy enough but it’s enjoyable, very musical and leans towards Rachmaninov rather than Tin Pan Alley.

Turning to the sound quality…[h]orns are spectacularly caught, brass and strings are glorious and the dynamic range is huge. The whole orchestra is set in a natural-sounding hall ambience and producer/engineer Tim Handley has certainly delivered the goods. Of its type this is a fine recording.

For smooth sophistication of execution captured in digital sound, this Buffalo production will be widely admired.

Rhapsody No.2…receives a fabulous performance here, just about the best now placed before the public. JoAnn Falletta conjures up some inspired, witty orchestral playing that really makes you smile. This is pure Hollywood, no more, no less. Written originally as film music I must admit that I couldn’t get the image of Tom and Jerry walking through the streets of New York out of my mind whilst listening to it. The work emerges here as a nostalgic piece of Americana and it’s tremendously enjoyable.

Finally we come to the I Got Rhythm Variations. This has an extra ingredient that’s not always in evidence in the performance of the concerto—spontaneous fun. It’s as if the hard work has been done, the microphones have been turned off and this is an encore at the end of the recording session. It’s more daring, high-spirited and unbuttoned. In truth it’s the best thing on the CD, Weiss is outstanding and the orchestra’s contribution is superb. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Brian Wilson Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, April 2012

these new, thoroughly idiomatic recordings are very welcome. The music may not be quite as snappy as the better known Rhapsody, but all the usual jaunty Gershwin trademarks are there, as, indeed, they are in the foot-tapping variations on I Got Rhythm. The mp3 transfer sounds fine and the notes are short but to the point. This is one of those recordings that you know are going to be excellent right from the start. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo News, March 2012

The vibe was right for this little Gershwin festival. The mood was upbeat and funky. The performers did not take everything too seriously—important in music like this, which can suffer from being overplayed.

Orion Weiss, the pianist, added to the excitement. He brought good spirit to this music, and though his playing has confidence and strength, he has a light touch that is all his own.

You hear funky touches from BPO players, too, including Principal Clarinetist John Fullam and also Alex Jokipii, principal trumpet. © 2012 The Buffalo News Read complete review

Andy Propst, March 2012

This disc, headlined by pianist Orion Weiss performing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, contains three ravishing pieces of George Gershwin's orchestral music, including the sumptuous "Concerto in F,"…It is terrifically complemented by "Rhapsody No. 2," a piece meant to capture the driving energies of New York City…The third offering on this immensely satisfying recording is the playful "I Got Rhythm" variations, which contains some marvelous riffs on the song so famous from Girl Crazy. © 2012 Read complete review, March 2012

Orion Weiss…plays with vivacity and power, and the Buffalo Philharmonic under JoAnn Falletta backs him up with altogether infectious enthusiasm. …the brightest and bounciest performance here is the “I Got Rhythm” Variations…: they simply sound as if they are having more fun. The whole CD is fun…a showcase for music whose modern sensibilities blend beautifully with classical models to produce a highly listenable and thoroughly enjoyable experience. © 2012 Read complete review

James Norris
Audiophilia, February 2012

Orion Weiss plays the Concerto with great panache and draws a depth of sound out of the piano that makes it almost sound like Rachmaninov in places. His rhythms are crisp and poised and the contrasts with the calmer more retrospective passages are well handled.

Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic give him excellent support and the slow movement is turned into a mini tone poem in its own right with the plaintiff trumpet solo at the beginning heralding its blues credentials. This is the very heart of the piece and at nearly thirteen minutes paints a magical scene which soloist and orchestra cleverly maintain without any loss of momentum. The third movement is again full of energy and the melodies swagger along with the high energy of the roaring twenties in full swing.

I got Rhythm Variations need no introduction to music theatre buffs and again Gershwin gives it the full treatment and the Buffalo Philharmonic and Weiss give it all they’ve got. Well worth a listen. © 2012 Audiophilia Read complete review

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, February 2012

In the present album American pianist Orion Weiss, conductor JoAnn Falletta, and the Buffalo Philharmonic present three of Gershwin’s most-famous creations, the Concerto in F, the Rhapsody No. 2, and the I Got Rhythm Variations. Although I was not familiar with Mr. Weiss’s playing, I have been an admirer of Ms. Falletta’s work in Buffalo for some time and looked forward to their collaboration. They did not disappoint me.

An Allegro opens [Concerto in F] in a big, robust, sweeping fashion, with Weiss and Falletta leading the way in a forward drive they sustain wonderfully.

The second-movement Adagio evokes the languorous, soulful mood of a nocturne, particularly in the bluesy segment for trumpet and cornet and then in a more breezy and buoyant section when the piano enters…Weiss maintains a good, jaunty, yet poetic cadence.

Weiss’s piano displaying a bravura temperament. Weiss shows us he’s a spirited Gershwin interpreter, and one hope he returns for more.

Next up is the Rhapsody No. 2…Here, everyone involved with the performance is again in top form, and the piece bubbles over with extravagant, effervescent enthusiasm.

…[in] the I Got Rhythm Variations for Piano and Orchestra…Weiss, Falletta, and the orchestra handle all of it with ease and practically bring down the rafters.

…this one is very open, very clear, very clean, and very transparent. Coupled with a huge dynamic range, strong transient impact, and deep, taut bass, the results are often startlingly realistic. © 2012 Classical Candor Read complete review

David Hurwitz, February 2012

the Second Rhapsody, a splendid, neglected work…is very well played and conducted by the team of Orion Weiss and JoAnn Falletta, and comes across as a work of impressive brilliance and depth. The same goes for the Variations, given a bold, gutsy performance with plenty of pizzazz.

The disc is also very well recorded and sounds quite impressive in both regular stereo and Blu-ray versions. A very pleasant surprise. © 2012 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2012

GERSHWIN, G.: Piano Concerto / Second Rhapsody / I Got Rhythm Variations (Weiss, Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta) 8.559705
GERSHWIN, G.: Piano Concerto / Second Rhapsody / I Got Rhythm Variations (Weiss, Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta) (Blu-Ray Audio) NBD0025

A hugely exciting opening disc in a projected series of the complete orchestral works of George Gershwin from JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. As is often written, the young Gershwin relied on orchestrators to dress his music, but as the years rolled by he became adept at scoring his own works, all three included here coming from him. Then we have the tricky point of interpretation. Was he a tunesmith with a jazz background who was trying his hand at writing classical music, and should we approach his works from that standpoint? Or was he a genuine new voice in classical music? Falletta comes somewhere between the two, her spicy account of the Piano Concerto aiding and abetting Orion Weiss’s high-octane keyboard virtuosity. After a vivacious opening movement, Falletta never allows the central Adagio to fall into the usual trap of becoming languorous, the trumpet’s opening solo played within a strict rhythmic framework, and mercifully free of those attempts at a jazz style we hear from British orchestras. The Rhapsody sizzles in what has to be the most overtly brilliant account in disc, and I have heard them all, while the ‘I Got Rhythm Variations’ uses jazz as the basis of Weiss’s concept. So far so good, as the sound is highly detailed and well balanced. But then we move to the Blu-ray version, also issued this month, and we are in a new audio experience. I have never heard such a realistic piano sound on disc, the solo orchestral instruments are tangible, and there is such unforced impact, that if you have Blu-ray you must not hesitate but to buy that version. Those less fortunate will have a fantastic CD. What a series to look forward to! © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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