Manhattan Intermezzo Jeffrey Biegel
Underappreciated classical crossover artists: Neil Sedaka, Keith Emerson and Duke Ellington. Jeffrey Biegel pays tribute to three of Gershwin's soulmates – and the master himself.
"Manhattan Intermezzo" brings together four works for piano and orchestra from composers you wouldn't expect on an album of "classical music" and who have a connection to New York: Neil Sedaka 's "Manhattan Intermezzo", "New World a-Comin’" by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" in its longer, jazzier original version and "Piano Concerto No. 1" by Keith Emerson. Sedaka, successful singer and songwriter in the early 60s, Emerson, virtuoso keyboardist with prog rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Ellington, one of the most influential composers and bandleaders in jazz, all (at least indirectly) refer to Gershwin who, in 20s New York, was the first composer to build a bridge between popular and classical music. Pianist Jeffrey Biegel and the Brown University Orchestra under Paul Phillips play the "classical" compositions of the four crossover artists with real joy and a proper dose of respect. The central work, Emerson's piano concerto, proves itself an underappreciated gem. Emerson performed and recorded the piece for the first and only time on his solo album "Works Vol. 1" in 1977 but it was panned by the rock press as pretentious and too conventional. However, this new, transparent recording reveals it as an impressive homage to Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Gershwin. The spirit of Gershwin hangs over this whole entertaining – and by no means lightweight – production.