This nice little two-fer is a reissue of Pascal Roge's individual Oehms Classics releases from 2004 and 2008. And it comes at a very attractive price too.
Unfortunately, the performances are variable. Roge certainly feels more at home in Ravel than he does in Gershwin. On the earlier disc, he turns in a pretty good reading of the former's Concerto in G, helped tremendously by the orchestral contribution under the direction of Bertrand de Billy. We hear lots of orchestral details (glissandos, pizzicatos, etc.) that often get smoothed over or lost in the mix. The Oehms recording is quite good in this regard, although it is unfortunate their piano tone is a bit clanky. The accompanying Gershwin Concerto is played well enough, but it misses the flare and enormous good spirits that Earl Wild and Arthur Fiedler bring to it. Roge sounds rather uncomfortable getting into the "style". All the notes are there, but it's overpedaled and sounds a little too careful and labored.
The follow-up disc is disappointing in comparison. Ravel's Left Hand Concerto is uninteresting. And Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is simply dismal, with extraordinarily slow tempos and a seriousness which doesn't suit it. Roge disfigures it with two huge cuts and yet still manages to drag it on for an eternity - lasting nearly 17 minutes! (Wild/Fiedler play it absolutely complete in just 16.) The best thing on this second disc is, by far, de Billy's An American in Paris. He's no Arthur Fiedler, but he draws idiomatic, characterful playing from the RSO Wien, and ravishing trumpet solos in the central section. Yet, even this work has a tiny cut made to it. Why?
And about that 2008 release...one wonders why the purely orchestral selection was chosen, rather than something more appropriate for a concerto disc featuring Pascal Roge. Wouldn't Gershwin's Second Rhapsody have been a better choice, maybe along with the I Got Rhythm Variations for good measure?
But I digress. And there's one more issue to address. The real stickler of this inexpensive 2-fer is that, while the original releases were multi-channel SACD, these reissues are not. They come on standard CD only. That's a shame - the performances need all the help they can get. But still, the set is attractive for fans of Roge who may have missed the individual releases. The terrific price makes it very tempting indeed.
I wish more labels would do this - reissue material which was perhaps less than stellar, combined with similar offerings, and make it inexpensive. Major labels did this a lot back in the day (think of Virgin's great little 2-fers, EMI's Double ffortes, Philips Duos, Double Deccas, etc., etc.). I'd love to see the smaller labels follow suit, even if it means giving up SACD, as in this case.