This is a tough one to rate. Four stars feels possibly overly generous, yet there are some treasures here, including the superb and not-heard-often-enough Contrasts by Bela Bartok, a chamber masterwork that Goodman commissioned. (Few people realize just how many modern classics Goodman inaugurated. Among his many other achievements, he enriched the world of 20th century chamber music, something for which he is not given credit.) The works here are fascinating--and this Debussy Clarinet Rhapsody may be one of the best performances the work has ever received. Yet when listening to these recordings, which range in sound quality from fair for the time to less than great for the time, one can't escape the conclusion that BG, the "King of Swing," the top pop musician of the 1930s, never really felt at home in classical music, never really performed it with confidence. The man who could play passages of fiery virtuosity with his jazz croanies and make the impossible sound easy was himself...
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