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Listening Post: Great New York Pianists Perform Great New York Songs and Mahler’s Tenth Symphony

JAZZ AND BROADWAY

Various Pianists, “Keys to the City: The Great New York Pianists Perform The Great New York Songs” (Roven) Are you ready for Letterman’s main man Paul Shaffer singing B.J. Thomas’ “Eyes of a New York Woman” with a vibrato that sounds like that of Shaffer and Letterman’s mutual friend Warren Zevon? How about Kander and Ebb’s original rock-’em, sock-’em demo performance of their song “New York, N.Y.”? And, get this, Leon Fleisher performing, with left hand alone, Earl Wild’s setting of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love?” It’s no surprise that Dick Hyman rhapsodizes “42nd Street” like a stride piano king. But you can’t help a feeling of discovery listening to Robbie Kondor play Leiber and Stoller’s “On Broadway” or Axel Tosca taking “The A-Train” through Spanish Harlem. Billy Stritch, Frank Owens, George Whitty, Mike Renzi and Glen Roven are not exactly household words among pianists, but when you consider those they’ve worked for, they are (try Liza Minnelli, Johnny Mathis, Grover Washington Jr., Mel Torme and Patti LuPone, respectively). This is a hugely unusual idea for a record that turns out to be as infectious as it is. Something like this “New York Piano Rama” by such professional nightclub and theater “music directors” should have been done long before. This is a rare and marvelous find. ŒŒŒ½ (Jeff Simon)

CLASSICAL

Mahler, Symphony No. 10 performed by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Thomas Dausgaard (Seattle Symphony/Naxos). As everyone knows, there was no such thing as a polished and finished Symphony No. 10 by Gustave Mahler. There were three movements almost fully orchestrated, and as Paul Schiavo tells you in the notes to this disc, “others in short score, while some passages are left with only the melody. But the overall arc, the complex narrative, the contrasting emotions and the way it unfolds is (sic) entirely Mahler’s.” The history of what you’re hearing played with such attention and devotion by the Seattle Orchestra is fascinating: all the years Alma Mahler withheld it, the quarter of a century Mahler scholar Deryck Cooke worked on a performable version, the 44 pages of “new sketches supplied by Alma Mahler’s daughter.” It is, said Cooke, only a “practical performing version” of a great symphony we wish we had in polished form but which was never to be. In his fascinating contribution to the disc notes, the conductor tellingly informs us that Mahler wrote it just before forcing his wife to choose between him and her love, architect Walter Gropius. She chose Mahler who died not long after. And left us what would turn into this – an approximation of greatness with things that had never been heard in his works before. ŒŒŒ½ (Jeff Simon)