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Oscar Levant's interpretation of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is widely considered second only to the composer's own recordings in its authenticity. The two men became friends following a visit to Hollywood by Levant in 1928. For the next 20 years Levant worked as a film composer and songwriter, as well as a very capable concert pianist, something he was later to incorporate into his own TV show - he was to become better known as a radio and TV wit than as a musician.
Despite studying composition under Schoenberg in the mid-1930's, Levant turned down the offer of an assistantship under him, considering himself unqualified. He continued to develop his playing career, with a number of works by Gershwin amongst his core repertoire. After the untimely death of Gershwin in 1937, Levant began work on a Suite for Orchestra, the central movement of which was dedicated to his friend. He was to go on to play himself in the 1945 Gershwin biopic Rhapsody in Blue, having resumed an earlier film career playing alongside Bing Crosby in 1940's Rhythm on the River.
In 1942 he became a leading Columbia Masterworks recording pianist, and played many concerts as the highest paid solo artist of his day.
GERSHWIN Rhapsody in Blue
GERSHWIN Preludes Nos. 2 & 3
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded in May 1945, issued as Columbia Masterworks set mx-251
Disc numbers 12126-D, 12127-D,
Matrix numbers XCO 34781-4
Transfer and Natural Sound remastering by Andrew Rose, March 2007