Morton Gould - an American all-rounder - three rare recordings
Showcasing Gould as pianist, composer, arranger and conductor
Review of this release: Classic Record Collector, Winter 2009
Notes on the recording:
It's not often that one is required to de-click a tap dance recording, and Morton Gould's Tap Dance Concerto is the first of only two such works I've been able to track down. Fortunately it turned out to be reasonably simple to distinguish between intentional clicks and the by-products of LP age! It's an unusual work, which manages to work remarkably well in an audio-only incarnation - Gould wrote out the tap score simply as rhythm, requiring the dance soloist to choreophraph as he or she sees fit. Naturally there's something of a Broadway or film score feel about some of the piece, with jazzy syncopations and a moderately-sized orchestra.
Another rare work by Gould is what the Columbia LP notes describe as "a nostalgic, witty and charming glance back at 'the old days'". As with the Tap Dance Concerto, it's filled with melodies and harmonies which would have easily worked as a film score, and indeed, Gould's programme notes do suggest the pictures to go with the music - including an entire movement inspired by old movies:
1. Outing in the Park. Family picnic - games - skating - distant band music
2. Porch Swing on a Summer Evening. Gently swaying and creaking in the peaceful dusk.
3. Nickelodeon. Old time movies - the comic hero - the villain - heroine in distress - hero vs. villain - the chase - victory - virtue triumphant
4. Old Romance. A pressed flower - faded picture - the sentiment and mystery of an unfulfilled romance
5. Horseless Carriage Galop. Cranking - hazardous going - cries of "Get a horse", breakdown - horse trots unconcernedly - scared by horn - dashes away - machine starts up again in noisy triumph.
The first work on this collection of recordings, however, brings us two entirely different sides of Gould - as an expert arranger, his orchestration of Tchaikovsky's work for solo piano, The Months (known more commonly as The Seasons), is a masterpiece long overdue for revival. Here we also get to hear Gould at the keyboard, from where he directed the orchestra in this recording.
As with the two Gould compositions, the Tchaikovsky is both excellently recorded and ravishingly played.
biographical notes from Wikipedia
Morton Gould (December 10, 1913 – February 21, 1996) was an American composer, conductor, arranger, and pianist.
Born in Richmond Hill, New York, Gould was recognized early as a child prodigy with abilities in improvisation and composition. His first composition was published at age six. Gould studied at the Institute of Musical Art, although his most important teachers were Abby Whiteside and Vincent Jones.
During the Depression, Gould, while a teenager, worked in New York City playing piano in movie theaters, as well as with vaudeville acts. When Radio City Music Hall opened, Gould was hired as the staff pianist. By 1935, he was conducting and arranging orchestral programs for New York's WOR radio station, where he reached a national audience via the Mutual Broadcasting System, combining popular programming with classical music.
In the 1940s, Gould appeared on the Cresta Blanca Carnival program as well as The Chrysler Hour on CBS where he reached an audience of millions.
Gould composed Broadway scores such as Billion Dollar Baby and Arms and the Girl; film music such as Delightfully Dangerous, Cinerama Holiday, and Windjammer; music for television series such as World War One; and ballet scores including Interplay, Fall River Legend, and I'm Old Fashioned.
Gould's music, commissioned by symphony orchestras all over the United States, was also commissioned by the Library of Congress, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the American Ballet Theatre, and the New York City Ballet. His ability to seamlessly combine multiple musical genres into formal classical structure, while maintaining their distinctive elements, was unsurpassed, and Gould received three commissions for the United States Bicentennial.
As a conductor, Gould led all of the major American orchestras as well as those of Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan, and Australia. With his orchestra, he recorded music of many classical standards, including Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" on which he also played the piano. He won a Grammy Award in 1966 for his recording of Charles Ives' first symphony, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 1983, Gould received the American Symphony Orchestra League's Gold Baton Award. In 1986, he was president of ASCAP, a position he held until 1994. In 1986 he was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Incorporating new styles into his repertoire as they emerged, Gould incorporated wildly disparate elements, including a rapping narrator and a singing fire department into commissions for the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony. In 1993, his work "Ghost Waltzes" was commissioned for the ninth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. In 1994, Gould received the Kennedy Center Honor in recognition of lifetime contributions to American culture.
In 1995, Gould was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Stringmusic, a composition commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra in recognition of the final season of director Mstislav Rostropovich. In 2005, he was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He also was a member of the board of the American Symphony Orchestra League and of the National Endowment for the Arts music panel. Most of his compositions and arrangements were issued by RCA Records, some of which are available from BMG.
Gould died in 1996 in Orlando, Florida.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton_Gould