Release Date: May 24, 2019
Catalog #: NV6230
Format: Digital & Physical
20th Century
Chamber
Percussion
Piano

The Gershwin & Bernstein Connection

Eliane Rodrigues piano
Nina Smeets piano
Carlo Willems percussion
Koen Wilmaers percussion

Piano virtuoso Eliane Rodrigues returns with her latest Navona Records release — THE GERSHWIN & BERNSTEIN CONNECTION, a new look at timeless pieces by legendary American composers. Together with talented artists including her daughter, pianist Nina Smeets, Rodrigues thrills audiences once again with her moving and truly spellbinding performances.

First is Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and this is a truly marvelous performance of the work. Gershwin’s intended improvisational, rubato style reigns, allowing the performers generous liberty to express a new interpretation. The employment of percussion blesses the timeless work with a fresh coat of paint. Gershwin’s masterpiece offers the perfect segue into an arrangement of symphonic dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story. Many audiences know the longing ballad “Somewhere” quite well and likely never thought it could get any sweeter, but Rodrigues’ ensemble adds a new layer. The recording is unexpectedly subtle — the polyrhythms are intact, but not overstated. The execution is balanced and exceptional in every single way. Finally, Rodrigues and her colleagues offer Gershwin’s Concerto in F in a seemingly effortless journey. One highlight is the meditative beginning of the second movement which captures the essence of George Gershwin and what listeners love so much about him, but with an arrangement that transpires into an all-out collection of keyboards, all performing with equal importance.

The execution of these arrangements serves as an example of how an ensemble can tastefully bring new perspectives to a recording, rather than simply reiterate a well-known composition. The inclusion of the percussion helps to set this album apart. Similarly, this album is equal parts Gershwin, Bernstein, and Rodrigues. This step away from the strictly classical concerto displays Rodrigues’ innate versatility and strength as an artist. It cannot be emphasized enough how the creative use of percussion transforms these classics — an effort not easily achieved, yet Rodrigues and her ensemble gracefully pull it off.

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Artist Information

Eliane Rodrigues

Pianist

From an early age, it was noticeable that Rio de Janeiro-born pianist ELIANE RODRIGUES was a child prodigy: she started composing at three years old, played her first recital at five, and performed with an orchestra at the ages of six and seven. From then on, she won prizes at numerous regional and national competitions, going on to win the special prize at the Van Cliburn Competition in the United States when she was just 18. She came in fifth place at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 1983 and was elected as the people’s number one favorite in 2020, a vote consisting of the top 30 most memorable moments of the competition’s history.

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Nina Smeets

Nina Smeets

Pianist

When NINA SMEETS makes music, she fully expresses the feelings coming from her heart and soul. She combines a fresh, delicate, and clear sound with a full range of musical colors. Her ability to mesmerize the audience with pure, sincere, and touching performances makes her an artist of unconditional value. Smeets devotes herself fully to music. She’s not only a performer, but also a passionate composer. After the release of her solo piano book and album, Project Reborn, Smeets’s music was nominated for an award in 2016.

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