Pianist Raffi Besalyan presents The Sound of Black & White as a collection of works from his native Armenia and his adopted U.S, and indeed, he offers vigorous performances of music by Aram Khachaturian and George Gershwin. The latter group includes an exciting reading of the less-often-heard piano solo version of the Rhapsody in Blue, made by Gershwin, and the Preludes, which are played with a bit less liquid quality than one would like. However, most interesting are the points where the two composers meet. Highly newsworthy is the world premiere of the Piano Sonatina by Gershwinspecialist Oscar Levant, a familiar figure 75 years ago but less so today. The Sonatina has a unique post-Gershwin language and makes one want to hear more of Levant's original music. Moreover, Levant often performed Khachaturian's music, and his arrangements of two excerpts from the ballet Gayane, not common either, are included here; the familiar "Sabre Dance" makes a satisfying finale. One is left with the impression of an odd kinship between Khachaturian and Gershwin that no one else has quite caught. Are those blue notes in the Andante con anima, rubato, movement of Khachaturian's Sonatina? The presence of some of Earl Wild's Virtuoso Etudes after Gershwin also works; the pieces bring a bit of the Russian virtuoso school, Besalyan's specialty, to the proceedings. The whole thing is brilliantly performed and benefits from superb engineering at Sono Luminus' Virginia studios. A satisfying cross-cultural essay.