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Gould: West Point Symphony; Hovhaness, Giannini / Fennell

Release Date: 08/11/1992 
Label:  Mercury Living Presence   Catalog #: 434320   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Morton GouldVittorio GianniniAlan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Frederick FennellA. Clyde Roller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman Wind Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Gould’s interest in the wind band dates from the late 1930s. His considerable output for it of original material (together with his personal supervision of the transcription of much of his orchestral music) earned for him a unique place among America’s composers. We recorded his sensitive and haunting Ballad for our debut album in this Mercury Living Presence series in 1953; it is an American band classic. So, too, to me, is his West Point Symphony presented here in its premiere recording.

Composed during January and February of 1952, the Symphony was commissioned by Francis E. Resta, then commanding officer of the United States Military Band and director of music at the Academy. Morton Gould considers it to be one of
Read more his major works, and it was he who conducted its first performance with the Academy Band at a gala concert on April 13 in the West Point Sesquicentennial Celebration of 1952. There are but two movements, “Epitaphs” and “Marches,” and about them Gould has supplied the following comments:

The first movement is lyrical and dramatic. The work starts with a quiet and melodic statement of the main theme and motifs that are used and expanded through the entire piece. The general character is elegiac. There is contrast between sonorous brass statements and poignant and contemplative reflections in the woodwinds. This resolves into a broad and noble exposition of one of the motifs, followed by a transition to what serves as both an extended Coda of the movement and a transformation and peroration of the preceding sections. The form here is a passacaglia based on a martial theme first stated in the tuba. On this is built a series of variations that grow in intensity. They mount to a dynamic peak, and after a final climactic variation the movement recalls the previous lyricisms, but with the passacaglia motif hovering in the background. The movement finishes quietly.

The second and final movement is lusty and gay in character. The texture is a stylization of marching tunes that parades past an array of embellishments and rhythmic variants. At one point there is a simulation of a Fife and Drum Corps which, incidentally, was the instrumentation of the original West Point Band. After a brief transformed restatement of the themes in the first movement, the work finishes in a virtuoso Coda of martial fanfares and flourishes.

The score of the West Point Symphony (Gould's fourth, but his first for the band) calls for a "marching machine," fulfilled on this recording by the marching feet of the 120 players of the Eastman School Symphony Band.

excerpts from album liner notes

R E V I E W S:

"The ostinato [of Gould's West Point Symphony] itself amazes me as a feat of composition: it's rhythmically asymmetric, it compresses and inverts the original intervals of the theme, and it all coheres. Add to this a mastery and variety of invented wind colors, and you still end up with a damn good piece...For my money, the second movement surpasses even the first. It's a roller-coaster ride with wild harmonic, full-triad side-slips and snare-drum rhythms in the winds that keep winding a listener up...Throughout most of the movement, Gould keeps a lid on, mainly dynamically, letting little bursts of energy occasionally break through the texture. This is music coming to eruption, and when it does, it spits notes like the rattling of shot. The work is generous with invention...
[Hovhaness's] writing for band sounds like none other. I think especially of the solo bass trombone against trombone glissandi or the glitter of vibraphone, glockenspiel, triangle, chimes, and gong – both in the last movement. Striding fugues, noble hymns, and the chatter of stars – what's not to like? Roller and his players give the piece a heartfelt, ecstatic reading. A work of wonders, and a classic performance of the stereo era."

Steve Schwartz, Classical.net
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 4 "West Point" by Morton Gould
Conductor:  Frederick Fennell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USA 
Symphony no 3 for Winds by Vittorio Giannini
Conductor:  A. Clyde Roller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959; USA 
Symphony no 4 for Winds, Op. 165 by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  A. Clyde Roller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; USA 

Featured Sound Samples

Symphony no 4 "West Point" (Gould): II. Marches
Symphony no 4 for Winds (Hovhaness): III. Andante espressivo

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