Review: Under baton of Wolff, ASO takes grand and hopeful journey on the “American sound”

Arts ATL

By Mark Gresham

Just as Adams’ “Lollapalooza” captures a kind of raucous post-modern excitement of the late 1990s, George Gershwin’s “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in F Major” captured the excitement of big city life in the midst of the Roaring Twenties, before the stock market crash and the Great Depression brought its youth-driven social and cultural dynamism to a screeching halt.

The concerto’s opening movement is built upon the rhythm of the popular Charleston dance. The second on the blues, if in a kind of distilled, refined manner, without the true grit. The final movement the composer calls “an orgy of rhythms” that begins intensely and remains persistent in the rapid-fire energy of those “Crazy Years” to the end.

Denis Kozhukhin, the 30-year-old Russian pianist, exhibited a natural feel and comprehension for Gershwin’s idioms. That’s something too often missing from performances of this concerto and, unfortunately, more frequently with his “Rhapsody in Blue” — from classically trained musicians who “paste on” misunderstandings of style that sound artificial, to jazz pianists who wrongly try to add elements of bop and jive that Gershwin would never have imagined.

Kozhukhin, however, was right on the money, offering up a performance that was true to Gershwin’s language and gives it breath, a lyricism where it is warranted, and a drive that brings the excitement home.

Read the full review here.