Russo: Street Music (CD review)

Also, Three Pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra; Gershwin: An American in Paris. Corky Siegel, Siegel-Schwall Band; Seiji Ozawa, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. DG Originals 463 665-2.

Things are seldom so easy as they appear. Despite the cover picture on the front of this CD, these Russo and Gershwin recordings derive from two separate DG releases made in 1972 and 1977 respectively. The first LP coupled Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story with William Russo's Three Pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra. The second LP coupled George Gershwin's An American in Paris with Russo's Street Music. The idea behind both LPs was to demonstrate the successful fusion of classical music and jazz, something only the Gershwin work succeeded in doing completely.

In any case, when the CD era dawned, DG put together a different package from the two LPs. It had the Bernstein and Gershwin pieces coupled with Russo's Street Music. Since these were the most popular of the works on both previous records, it seemed like a good idea. Moreover, as the sound was among DG's finest, it made for an easy recommendation.

Seiji Ozawa
Then in 2002, DG remastered and repackaged the works in their "Originals" line of classics, reviewed here. This time they again used three of the four works, but they chose to use Russo's Street Music and Three Pieces and Gershwin's American in Paris and omit Bernstein's Symphonic Dances. This was a shame because the Bernstein stuff was the best recording of it that music had ever seen, and the second Russo piece is much like the first one, anyway. So, what gives? I wondered if DG were going to give us the Bernstein piece remastered at a later date, or if it would slip through the cracks, never to be heard from again? As it turns out, there is a CD available of the Gershwin/Bernstein/Russo music now available from DG, although I see it marked as an import and a rather expensive one at that. Who knows their thinking.

Oh, well, what we have here is quite good, if a bit repetitious in the relatively lightweight Russo material. The Gershwin sounds quite lively and strongly flavorful, though, and the remastered sound is ever so slightly better than what DG provided on their first CD release. The bass seems especially better focused and carries more impact, and the midrange likewise sounds better defined. It's a good but disappointing re-issue at the same time because I'd really liked to have heard what DG's "Original Image Bit Processing" could have done with the Bernstein piece. Maybe we'll just have to continue to wait and see.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa